East York loses legendary music teacher

John Lippert Jr. founded the Lippert Music Centre in 1957 — travelling house-to-house, teaching the accordion

The Lippert Music Centre’s schoolhouse at 970 Pape Ave. is a familiar sight to passers-by along Pape, near Floyd Avenue. Its heritage goes back decades; in fact, next year will be the centre’s 60th anniversary as a school for budding East York musicians.
Its founder was Joseph Lippert Jr., who died on Jan. 28 at the age of 90.
In 1957, Mr. Lippert opened the Lippert Music Centre, splitting his time between the small “schoolhouse” on Pape Avenue and house calls to teach his students.
Of German descent, Mr. Lippert learned to play the accordion as a young boy. In 1956, he attended what was then the Ontario Teachers’ College on Carlaw Avenue (now the East York campus of Centennial College) to study music education — and he taught at several schools before striking out on his own.
It was more of a “you must learn” mentality,” said Mr. Lippert’s only child, Charleen Beard. “The interest piques when you hear something you enjoy.”
Music “was his life,” said Mr. Lippert’s wife, Gloria — who was married to her husband for almost 52 years.
When her father retired in 1996, Beard stepped up to run the center. Mr. Lippert taught her to play piano and, by the age of 12, she had passed her crucial Grade 8 conservatory exam. At 10 years old, Charleen was marking the theory papers of her father’s students.
“As a kid, you sort of resent it in a way,” she remembered, commenting on the pressure she felt to learn music. “But when you grow up, you understand why.”
Anna Bannach was eight years old when she had her first lesson with Mr. Lippert.
“My sister inspired me to play the piano,” said Banach, who actually started out learning ballet as a child.
Banach would dance while her sister played, but complained about the quality of music. So she decided to learn the piano, and eventually quit dancing to follow music. She has been teaching at the Lippert Music Center for 16 years now.
“I got to know the Lippert family and watch them go through [a lot],” said Banach on the death of Mr. Lippert and the toll it’s taken on the family.
Mr. Lippert had a difficult time continuing to play music as he got older, but pulled through to play at the centre’s 50th anniversary in 2007.
“In later years, he became hard of hearing,” his widow said. Still, Mr. Lippert and his wife would attend concerts, and she said he’d complain because he could hear people’s mistakes when they played.
Mr. Lippert taught for generations — almost 40 years — and his legacy is that his music centre continues to teach people to play and love music.
Nancy Gomes took group guitar lessons with Mr. Lippert as a young girl in the mid-‘70s.
“I remember him being a fair teacher,” she said. Her son now takes piano lessons at the Lippert Music Centre.
“I do remember one song I really liked,” said Gomes. “The Boogie Woogie. It was my favourite. I can still play the beginning.”
The Lippert family held a funeral ceremony at the Harridge Funeral Center, celebrating the life of Joseph Lippert Jr., on Jan. 31. Naturally, the service featured music — from the harp, cello, voice… and of course, the accordion.
Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, students and local dignitaries attended, including the city councillor, Mary Fragedakis, and the MPP, Peter Tabuns.