|25 Sep 2023|
The American Embassy School recently inaugurated a memorial stone in Penny’s honor for the significant impact she had on her students and the AES Music Department. Below are tributes to Penny written by some of her loved ones.
Dr. Penelope Estabrook made an outstanding contribution to AES and the wider community through her vibrant music department, honing student musicians of both western and Indian classical music genres and doing significant community outreach. Her training in sitar under Padma Vibhushan Pt Ravi Shankar was also the subject of her PhD dissertation, and long after she left AES, she continued to be universally considered the most sought after piano teacher in the NCR as well as an inspiring teacher of tap dance at the Delhi School of Music. Her winter Shanti concerts—part of the AES curriculum—were of the highest levels and included all genres of music as well as dance. The Chaturlal awards and concerts honored the legendary tabla accompanist of Pt Ravi Shankar during the international travels that made his worldwide reputation. The "Cave," an amazing room left by architect Joseph Allen Stein that had original Aravali rocks, provided rock shelves for sitars, tablas and other instruments making a magical environment for all who entered.
I often met Penny at annual music/dance festivals at the Ravi Shankar Centre over the years after she left AES and the school’s loss was a gain for generations of her devoted piano students. Her contribution as a human being, director of performing arts and music, and instructor to AES and the wider Delhi community was massive and will be long remembered.
—Sharon Lowen (Former AES Staff)
Dr. Penny Estabrook, affectionately known as Dr. E was a very generous teacher through my student years. She arrived when I was in 6th grade as I remember it and after graduating from AES, I would meet her occasionally at the Gymkhana Club or Triveni Kala Sangam or else at some semi-reunions organized by AIS/AES alum-teachers. She remained ever-smiling and ever-encouraging. I remember a few incidents from 6th grade. Dr Estabrook organized a musical event and the 6th Grade Choir theme was Hollywood. The song which stands out vividly was “76 Trombones.” It was the only song that none of us seemed to have memorized fully. While singing the song, we were to walk to a new space in the Gymnasium Theater. In order to drown out the sound of unknown words, our foot-shuffling became louder and proportionately, Dr. E seemed to have been playing on the piano keys more vigorously. That was the one time I had a sense of her being perhaps mildly upset but if she was, she never expressed it. That was also the occasion for which she taught three of us, Fidelina Adan, Carolyn van Shaick and me, to tap dance. That was certainly my first experience of tap dancing and a discovery too.
Thanks to Dr. Estabrook, the 6th Grade Choir participated in two multi-school musical events in Delhi. We sang the Indian National Anthem and the National Song, Sare Jahan se Achha. Dr. E called my mother one day to inform her that I, along with two other classmates, had been selected to represent the choir and be felicitated by the then President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain at Rashtrapati Bhavan. What a memorable moment!
In my Senior year, we had an independent Study Program (ISP), and I chose to play the Sitar with Dr. Estabrook as my mentor. I was convinced I was tone-deaf but she was the epitome of patience as she guided me along that one semester.
Thank you, Dr. E., you were one of the finest.
—Sunaina Suneja (Former Student)
I was a pupil at The British School, Chanakyapuri, between 1978–1983 and attended summer schools at AES. During that time Penny was my much loved piano teacher. When it was time for my lessons, I recall stepping out of the Delhi heat and into the cool of Penny's basement (she lived in a different house in Safdarjang Development Area back then), where it was always a joy to sit and play her beautiful Steinway piano surrounded by innumerable images of Ganesh and a stack of American Coca Cola cans!
One of Penny's many gifts was an innate ability to perceive and nurture what was unique in each of her pupils. She showed me the primacy of a love and enjoyment of music, over and above musical achievement. She never adopted a 'one size fits all' attitude, and seemed to have an endless reservoir of approaches, techniques, patience, and enthusiasm at hand to develop and encourage.
It is testimony to Penny that after I left Delhi we kept in touch for the next 40 years. Penny and I shared a love of stickers and stamps, which we used to send one another by post, until our sea mail correspondence was eventually superseded by email. I'm grateful to have met with her again one last time in 2004, when I returned to India for a holiday. She hadn't changed a bit.
Penny was a very special lady. She gave me a wonderful gift—tremendous encouragement and a lifelong love of the piano. She once told me that 'no matter what happens in life the piano is always your friend,' and I have found her words to be true. Thank you, Penny, dear teacher and friend.
—Anita Kane (nee Jackson)