1997 “Youth” Composition

In 1997,  Birmingham Suzuki Violinists accepted the opportunity extended by Terri Henningson Goulard to accompany her to Japan for the 44th Annual Suzuki Concert in Autumn of 1997.  In celebration of her birthday and memories of her childhood experiences with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, she wanted to extend the opportunity to other American children to go to Japan, meet Dr. Suzuki and participate in the National Suzuki Concert.  We were elated to be invited!

Much publicity, many fundraising concerts, and donations were needed to fund the trip to Japan.  That’s when Avery Otto Warren, Director of news-article-1

news-article-3 THE PEOPLE PLACE stepped in to help.  So essential to our success the PEOPLE PLACE, a 501 (c)(3) organization became our official  sponsoring organization. It spearheaded our fundraising, grant-writing and publicity efforts.

One of the many significant events that were held was the “Unveiling Ceremony” of the “Youth” composition. Avery Otto had the idea that LaDonna Smith  set to music the text of Samuel Ullman’s famous poem “Youth.”  This particular poem was a favorite of General McArthur, and was displayed framed on the wall behind his desk at his office during the post-war American effort to rebuild Japan. McArthur was highly respected by the Japanese and because he loved the poem, it also became an inspiration to the Japanese. It was beloved in Japan by the business community and many elected officials during the time of reconstruction.  Samuel Ullman was German immigrant who lived in Birmingham, and wrote as an avocation. Who would guess that his poem would play such an influential role in Japanese history?

newspaper-article-3The “Youth” composition, based on the famous Ullman poem, was especially composed by LaDonna Smith in November 1997, to take as a gift from the Birmingham Suzuki Violinists and the City of Birmingham to Japan. The premier performance was presented at the home of Samuel Ullman, currently owned as a historic museum by the University of Alabama in Birmingham. The unveiling was a special fundraising and publicity event. Master of Ceremony was  Dr. Henry Panion, Director of Music at UAB. Also present was Dr. Fred Goosen, LaDonna’s composition professor at the University of Alabama, Mr. Walter E. Smith, and Mayer Neufield, Ullman’s grandson.

In this gallery, you will see some pictures from the “Unveiling” of the “Youth Composition” which was premiered by soprano, Diane McNaron with Robbie James, piano to a specially invited audience at the historic home of Samuel Ullman, now a museum at UAB. Henry Panion III was the keynote speaker and a presentation of the score for the Museum was made to Mayer Neufield, Ullman’s grandson. You can view the poem here.

Birmingham Suzuki Violinists took to Japan the gift of an original score to of Youth to present to Dr. Masaaki Honda, Director of  Suzuki Talent Education, in honor of Dr. Suzuki. A copy of the score was also given to the Shinichi Suzuki Museum in Matsamoto.  A final copy was given to Mr. Toshio Ilyama, Mayor of Hitachi City, Birmingham’s Sister City at the presentation before the International Friendship Concert.

(Click each image to see the caption)

Congratulations to our "Youth," Birmingham Suzuki Violinists on their way to Japan!


  • The People Place
  • The Samuel Ullman Museum
  • Birmingham Sister City Commission
  • Gloria Narramore Moody Foundation
  • Jemison Investment Co.
  • Alabama Power Foundation
  • Vulcan Materials
  • Governer Fob James
  • Alabama State Council on the Arts and Humanities
  • The Japan America Society
  • AmSouth
  • Alabama Public Television
  • Birmingham Rotary Club
  • Birmingham Botanical Gardens
  • Compass Bank
  • Hoover Library
  • The Birmingham News
  • The Dailey Mountain Eagle
  • Shelby Reporter
  • Sloss Development Group
  • Eighteenth Street
  • Orientals
  • Birmingham Youth Jazz Ensemble
  • UA Japan Program

…and all those who supported this project.