Carol Wunderle - Volume 12.3
Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor
Hard Copy Illustrations
Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops
Production and Distribution
Linda Nakagawa, Barbara Meixner, and the Sacramento Teachers Research Group
Send Articles to:
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation
67 Shepard St., Rochester NY 14620
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA, USA 95831
Next Deadline: June 1, 2007
By Haruko Kataoka
From the Matsumoto Suzuki Piano Newsletter
Vol.8 No.3, August 3, 1998
Translated by Chisa Aoki
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Illustrations by Juri Kataoka
The quote is by the renowned cellist Pablo Casals.
At the end of the day, wondering what has happened in our world, I turned on the television to watch the evening news. It was filled with news that I didnít want to see or hear.
In the midst of a myriad of disturbing events, there was one that so especially saddened me I could not let go of it. It was the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis in Peru that occurred at the end of 1996 and was finally resolved at the end of April 1997 with the Peruvian government violently forcing its way into the Embassy. For two to three days, I was not able to stop thinking about the crime. I was filled with gloom.
I am aware that the criminal explained and justified the crime. Still, people have parents and family who love them. You couldnít find a single person in the whole world who would wish that their loved ones be victimized by violence.
In Japan, the Showa period (1925-1988) saw the militaryís gradual rise in power, and my country foolishly declared war against the rest of the world. Many people lost their beloved family members to war. They endured great suffering and sadness.
In 1945, after their defeat, Japan was disarmed, and a new constitution banned militarism. Happily, fortunately, we are able to now live in peace. In 1945, after their defeat, Japan was disarmed, and a new constitution banned militarism. Happily, fortunately, we are able to now live in peace. In 1945, after their defeat, Japan was disarmed, and a new constitution banned militarism. Happily, fortunately, we are able to now live in peace.
Yet all around the world warring, violent factions still exist, and innumerable people are involuntarily forced to die as the result of military actions. Why canít people the whole world over who have been blessed with life from heaven live out their natural life span? Isnít there any way we can abandon actions based on violence?
There was one positive note in the news of the incident in Peru. During the press conference, I felt the warmth of the human heart in the testimony of witness Archbishop Luis Cipriani when he lamented tearfully, his voice quavering, "We endeavored to solve this peacefully, but ultimately 17 people lost their lives. That is whatís so regrettable."
It is comforting to know that there are warm-hearted people all over the world who are concerned about others, yet at the same time, I fear that these warm-hearted people are out-numbered by those who prefer to use force as their modus operandi.
As Casals opined, will music be able to save the world? This is what I think. People who grow up deeply nurtured with music in their lives, in other words, art in their lives, will not become murderers. Let us work hard to nurture even one more person whose senses are more developed than their intellect. Then perhaps there wonít be senseless, oppressive wars. Letís work hard to study music. Yes, studying music is for your own good, but within a larger, worldly context, it also means that you are contributing to world peace.
It is our pleasure to inform our members, with great thanks to Ken Wilburn, our tireless editor of the Suzuki Piano Basics web site and to the staff of East Carolina University, of a new video library resource that is in the process of being developed. Videos of Dr. Kataokaís teaching and lecturing will gradually become accessible to all of us online.
Teachers in possession of such videos will be asked to obtain permission from the students being filmed, and then to submit the video for uploading onto the Piano Basics web site. The permission forms and the guidelines for submission will be available to our members soon.
The project will begin with student lesson videos (no teacher lessons will be included in this project) and will be arranged by piece, and within each piece by date. Ultimately, we hope it will be possible for a teacher to view many of Kataoka Senseiís lessons on the same piece over the years here in one place. Another part of the project will involve Kataoka Senseiís lectures, which at this point will be arranged chronologically.
The Piano Basics Board is very excited about this new endeavor, which will grow according to our membersí contributions to it. We have long been thinking about a way to archive all of the video footage taken over the past four decades at various workshops and events, mostly by individual teachers. Keeping hard copies of these in one place, cataloging them, and lending them out to members would have been beyond our means. The internet, and the volunteer work of Professor Wilburn and his colleagues from ECUís Multimedia Center, David Jones (Media Designer and Videographer) and Laurie Godwin (Academic Outreach), will make our dream a reality.
Member teachers will be hearing more about this project as it gets off the ground, and will be receiving instructions about how to contribute to it. Meanwhile, those of you who are enthused about this at the preliminary stage may begin looking at your videos, dating them, and contacting the students on them so that they can sign permission for the video to become public. This project will be as valuable as we each individually contribute to it
1. Every time I hear the piano tone from the students or teachers from Matsumoto, I ask myself, ďHow do they get such a big, rich, round, and clear tone compared to our American students and teachers?" This is a curiosity that is forever with me.
2. "Why?" I ask, "Do ten pianos sound like ten pianos in Matsumoto and ten pianos sound like five pianos in Sacramento?" I have pondered this question seriously for three years while listening to my own tone, the tone of my own students and the tone of students and teachers around the world.
3. A complaint, in the form of a question that I hear from American teachers after our 10-piano concerts, is that their students seem to have acquired "stiffness" in their bodies. This phenomenon comes from "trying too hard" without having the proper "basics" developed.
These are the kinds of questions that I hope every Suzuki Piano Basics teacher has. These are motivating questions for every teacher because as Suzuki Piano Basics teachers we know that our students are the mirror image of ourselves. We know that it is the teacherís responsibility to create the best environment for our students. And if we do this properly, the parents will learn.
Recently, two friends (Suzuki Piano Basics colleagues) attended a live concert with Martha Argerich performing the Beethoven Second Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra. One said, "Iím disappointed in the sound that Martha is creating. Do you think something is wrong with the piano?" The other said, "Definitely not! It is never the fault of the piano. To my surprise she is just having an off day." I bring up this scenario because all too often it is easy for us to find blame in someone or something else. I feel very strongly that the wonderful life of a Suzuki Piano Basics teacher is that we accept and embrace responsibility. When our students are not doing well, we have to figure out how and what to do to inspire and motivate. With patience, each week at every lesson we can try our best to "develop" musical ability within our students.
That brings me to the upcoming 10-piano concert on August 18, 2007. We will have 190 local students, 40 students from around the country and 25 foreign students. (There are four groups of ten students, pre-rehearsed, coming only for the last few days.)
All of these students, excluding the pre-rehearsed groups, will have only two weeks to rehearse together to create one, big, beautiful musical tone! Itís a difficult task, but Iíve always thought that just because something is difficult, doesnít mean one doesnít try. We will try.
At this point, all of the students and teachers should be working to keep their "body natural" in order to create the most beautiful tone. Unnatural bodies create an unnatural tone. All of the teachers who have students participating in the concert have studied with Dr. Haruko Kataoka, the Matsumoto teachers, or an American teacher. Everyone "understands" on a certain level what must be done, and they bring their students to participate, hopefully, to learn how to take it to the next level. Teachers must prepare their students to their best ability. I promise you, no matter how pleased you are with the ability of your student, you will see areas of weakness in them during the two weeks of rehearsal. This is a fact. This is a good thing. When we "discover" our weaknesses during the rehearsals, we can work on them throughout the following year. This is how we learn. This is how we can become better teachers for our students. The responsibility is ours. Itís a wonderful thing.
Sometimes the responsibility can be overwhelming. Suzuki Piano Basics method is new to me. (Even though I have been "teaching" it for over 20 years.) In the past, I would observe Kataoka Sensei teach during her workshops here in America. For two weeks after the workshop, I happily admit that my teaching was very productive. After that, somehow it would fade. I would try to observe Kataoka Sensei as much as possible in the States and in Japan. Now, I understand the importance of the observations. Iíve worked hard to change my old way of thinking about teaching piano. I canít do it on my own. Thank goodness Sensei worked hard to develop the teachers in Matsumoto. I decided to go directly to the source again. Recently, I went to Matsumoto to observe lessons, participate in their research group, and ask some specific questions about some of the 10-piano pieces; and most of all I wanted to check to see if I was going in the right direction. It is so easy to get off track. A week was all the time I could spare, but I came back rejuvenated.
Here are some guidelines for students participating in the 10-piano concert:
1. Good posture
2. Ability to balance the whole body
3. Ability to carry their arms
4. Keep a soft, natural body
5. Ability to play hands separately anywhere in the piece
6. Ability to play with a big, round, natural tone
7. No force, please
8. Ability to ride on the natural rhythm
9. Ability to sing the melody tone with a soft, but not "weak" accompaniment
10. Ability to listen
The 10-piano concert as developed by Dr. Haruko Kataoka is for serious study. It is a time when teachers can study together to observe their own teaching strengths and weaknesses. Of course, the students will have fun and will enjoy working together, and they will desperately want to do a good job which will motivate them to practice. The real learning and sharing, however, starts with the teachers.
All teachers bringing students, with the exception of one, have had past experience with the Matsumoto or Sacramento 10-piano concerts. I hope this means that we will see an overall improvement. I am also pleased that there are a few teachers, who are not bringing students, who will be observing the two week 10-piano concert rehearsals for the first time. This is very important because the "rehearsals" are actually "lessons." New and experienced teachers can learn how to teach the "basics" at a deeper level. My hope is that everyone who observes will become a better Suzuki Piano Basics teacher.
This will be our fifth 10-piano concert. I now understand what Kataoka Sensei said when she told me over and over again, "It is very important for all of the students to have a natural technique. If even one student plays with stiff fingers, itís impossible for all ten students to stay together." She also said that if even only one student rushes rhythmically, they all will rush.
Individually, we teachers have a great responsibility for the preparation of our students in order for everyone to experience a successful concert. Collectively, we will learn and grow together and ultimately become better teachers for our students. As we continue to study, our own musical tone will become "rounder and clearer" and our bodies will become more natural. Improvement from our students is imminent. They are our mirror image.
May 19-20, 2007
Laguna Niguel, California
Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Rae Kate Shen
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518
June 4-8, 2007
University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Institute
Contact: Bruce Boiney 502-896-0416
June 10-14, 2007
Suzuki Piano Basics Teacher Research Workshop
with Keiko Ogiwara and Keiko Kawamura
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518
July 15-18, 2007
University of Puget Sound
Suzuki Piano Basics Summer Festival with Bruce Boiney
Contact: Jacki Block
July 23-26, 2007
Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians Summer Workshops 2007
Contact Betty & Stephen Power (01223) 264408
July 30-August 3, 2007
Saint Louis, Missouri
Suzuki Piano Basics Institute
with Bruce Boiney and Joan Krzywicki
Contact: Patty Eversole 314-837-1881
Registration information online at
August 18, 2007
Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert
Inquire before December 1 for student participation
Contact: Linda Nakagawa 916-422-2952
To add or change items on this list and on the Suzuki Piano Basics website, contact
Karen Hagberg firstname.lastname@example.org, 585-244-0490.
To the Kataoka Sensei Memorial.
To the Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page.
First Online Edition: 2 June 2007
Last Revised: 9 March 2012