Susan Adams grew up in Ottawa where she began to study the piano with Jaromey Anderson. She obtained an undergraduate degree in piano performance with Boris Roubakine at the University of Calgary.
She decided, while there, that she would specialize in the performance of music of the 16th to late 18th Centuries. She won a two-year study and travel grant from the Canada Council to study early keyboard instruments and related subjects at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland. Jean-Claude Zehnder, and Klaus Linder were her principal teachers. Side trips to Amsterdam enabled her to receive guidance from Gustav Leonhardt, one of the world’s most prolific teachers and performers on the harpsichord and related early keyboards.
Returning to Canada, Susan moved first to Vancouver, where she played numerous concerts as both soloist and continuo player in the works of Bach, Couperin, Rameau and Scarlatti, Handel and Haydn. Eventually, she began to widen the collection of antique and reproduction early keyboards, and performed more widely in Washington, Alberta, and Oregon, as well as throughout BC.
Beginning in 1987, she pioneered some of the earliest specialized recordings of early keyboard music made in the province, and began to spread her knowledge of the field, teaching masterclasses in her specialty.
At about the same time, the Society of Friends of Early Music Studio, one of the first non-profit organizations supporting artists and their work, dedicated to early music, was formed. The granting of 12 continuous years of funding from BC Gaming enabled her to perform widely in greater Vancouver, Victoria and the Islands. The acquisition of a library of scores, and support for editorial and scholarly work was included in this funding. Support from other private donors and audience members allowed for growth, and her specialized understanding of both music and management of an arts organization benefitted the wider community of music lovers.
Commencing in 1987, she made her first recording, and has made to date six full-length productions, a survey of Sonatas by Mozart, played on the Viennese early piano (custom-made for her by Johannes Secker); a series of Suites by Couperin on a Frank Hubbard French double-manual harpsichord; a very unusual recording of music especially designated for an Italian-style harpsichord; and various recordings of music by Haydn, J. C. Bach, J. S. Bach. One of her most successful recordings is a performance of duo music of the early nineteenth century, using a restored square piano from the 1820’s of rarely-heard pieces for early guitar and piano with Clive Titmuss. She is one of only a handful of BC artists with such a discography still available to students and the public.
Moving to Kelowna after nearly twenty years in the Lower Mainland, she established and cultivated a web presence by beginning one of the first downloadable music websites for early music in the country. Since then, the music industry has moved to mobiles and streaming, and though it is much more difficult to make the work sustainable, her recordings have seen hundreds of plays per month on internet radio. She has proven to be prescient and persistent in monitoring the public appetite for early music in Canada.
She commissioned the restoration of early pianos by Bechstein, Erard, and Collard: and most recently, a particularly spectacular grand, made by John Broadwood in London in 1809. This is the same model that Broadwood sent as a gift to Beethoven in 1815; it quickly became his favourite, shaping the sounds heard in his landmark sonatas in unexpected ways.
In 2009 she played a solo recital on the Broadwood at the Mary Irwin Theatre in Kelowna, emtitled “Revolutionary Piano” with music by Beethoven and his contemporaries. The concert was featured in print media and on the local TV newscast, and marked an upswing in her local audience. Since then the Society of Friends of Early Music Studio has presented many performances in various Kelowna venues, lately finding the new and very quiet Farm Inn at Bottega the best location for the magical atmosphere in which early music can be properly heard. There have been concerts of music by Couperin and his contemporaries, music by Mozart and Bach, and the very special performance of a story, which she wrote especially for the voice and character of the wood used to make a lute: A Lute for Christmas. It proved one of the most successful early music and voice performances in the city to date, with a sell-out crowd.
As a continuo player, she has worked with the Calgary Philharmonic under Mario Bernardi and Arpad Joo, the Handel Society of Vancouver under Karel ten Hoope, as well as the Kamloops and Okanagan Symphonies. She has become principal continuo player for the Okanagan Festival Singers, playing for the last six years in the biennial performance of Handel’s Messiah. This year she is playing principal continuo for OFS in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.