Cover photo for Snavely Daniel Swaim Sr.'s Obituary

Snavely Daniel Swaim Sr.

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Snavely Daniel Swaim Sr., born August 29


, 1934. He passed away peacefully at his home with his family by his side on April 4


, 2023.

Known to most as “Dan Swaim,” he was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He attended R.J. Reynolds High School and then the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for two years. During this time, played for the Winston Salem Symphony and met his wife of 66 years and fellow bassist, Shirley Leonard. Dan completed his Bachelor of Music degree at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and earned his Masters in Music Education from Indiana University, Bloomington. At Indiana University, Dan was the first bassist to be awarded the Performer’s Certificate of Music.

Dan and Shirley played bass together again in the Atlanta Symphony. Both started teaching careers, Dan in public school music and Shirley in primary classroom education. They both excelled at their respective fields.

Dan’s devotion to promoting the quality of education for young bass players everywhere was noted at least as early as the 1960s. While playing for the Dallas Symphony, he led an intensive six-week string program in the summer for students grades 3-12 of any proficiency which included three days of technique and theory and two days of chamber ensemble.

Dan accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Double Bass at Wichita State University and concurrently played with the Wichita Symphony. He performed at the Wichita and Kansas City Jazz Festivals. WSU students had access to bass instruction in both classical and jazz genres. A newspaper article about him in the Wichita Eagle revealed that Dan’s aspiration was to “make the string bass a solo instrument.”

Dan published articles in both the

Kansas Music Review

(December 1967) and

Orchestra News

(March 1970) that were veritable instruction guides for String Bass teachers. The articles described in great detail the instrument position, string choice, left arm position, and for the right arm, discussions of both French and German bowing. He gave specific details about achieving the best bass adjustment of each part of the bass from the pegbox to the bridge. It was clear that Dan’s goal was to make quality education for young bassists as accessible as possible.

Dan became Dr. S. Daniel Swaim after completing his Doctoral degree at the North Texas State University (now UNT). The final post in his collegiate teaching experience began in 1975 as Professor of Double Bass at Arizona State University. At this location alone, he devoted 30 years of himself and his expertise to bass players from across the country and from other countries who came to study with him. For many years he played as a member of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Opera. Dan or “Doc” as many of his students always called him, retired from Arizona State University and was conferred Professor Emeritus of Double Bass. He was known for his exceptional teaching style for 40 years at the collegiate level.

Even with teaching at ASU full-time, Dan still focused on education for the young bassist. He began developing Suzuki Bass Methodology in 1988 when he joined Suzuki Association of the Americas. In 1993, he became Suzuki’s first Bass Teacher Trainer. He was widely recognized as a presenter at many conferences for Suzuki, the Music Educator’s National Conference, The International Society of Bassists, and the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). He was also honored to serve as faculty at the 13


World Suzuki Method Conference in Matsumoto, Japan in 1999 again at the 16


in Massimo Japan in 2013.

His success with young bass students is widely recognized, locally, nationally and internationally. He was recognized by ASTA as the

Outstanding Studio Teacher of the Year

in 2009. The International Society of Bassists selected him for the Special Recognition Award in the Young Bassists Ambassador category in 2017.

Many of his former students now perform professionally in symphony orchestras including Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New Mexico, Philadelphia, Phoenix Symphony, the Arizona Opera, and others. Some former students brought their children to study in his Suzuki Bass Studio and they also have gone on to play professionally. An esteemed colleague described him as quiet and strong with tons of loyalty for his students. Another admired him for the fact that Dan was one of the few classical bassists of his generation who moved easily between classical and jazz genres.

Over several decades, Dan returned to North Carolina to the Brevard Music Center. He spent summers teaching players ranging from junior high school to graduate school. These summers were a chance to play again with colleagues and visiting artists from all over the country and to meet new bass players who might become the next generation of bass teachers and performers. Dan and Shirley spent leisure time at the nearby Pisgah National Forest for cookouts and also took long drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway. In honor of their wishes, our family will return their ashes to this special place they shared.

Dan is pre-deceased by his parents, his sister Miriam Fielding, and his wife of 66 years, Shirley Leonard Swaim. Also mourning his passing are his three children S. Daniel Swaim Jr., David Swaim (Dora), and Kimberly Tejada (Adan). He will be missed by his grandchildren Christin Swaim-Higgins (Brian), Steven Swaim (Livia), Chelsea Weldon (K.C.), Jake Tejada (Jazmin) and Spenser Tejada (Sharon). Dan is also survived by seven great-grandchildren Cadi Swaim, Coen Swaim, Cole Swaim, Major Weldon, Kase Weldon, Amara Tejada and Lucas Swaim. There will be no services according to his wishes.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to American String Teachers Association ( or to the Phoenix Chamber Music Society ( where Dan and Shirley enjoyed many concerts together.

Dan was a devoted husband, a loving father, a talented musician, and a great teacher, and he has been called a “true southern gentleman.” He will be missed by all who knew him.
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