Louisville, KY Workshop
Grace Baugh Bennett
8201 Old Westport Road
Louisville, KY 40292
Philadelphia, PA Workshop
1102 Cromwell Rd.
Wyndmoor, PA 10938
Sacramento, CA 10-Piano Concert
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA 95831
It is easy for people to avoid art since people tend to have the misconception that it is very complicated. But in reality, it is very simple. When our hearts and souls, which everyone possesses, are touched by something, art comes to life. This means anyone can become an artist. People tend to think that professional artists who are making their living with artistic work are the only ones that may be called artists. It is not true. As I have stated, all human beings can enjoy art within themselves.
This August, I heard a remarkable speech by a Suzuki piano student's mother at a wonderful welcoming banquet for the teachers and students from Matsumoto at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sacramento.
Her family are apparently all very hard-working people because both she and her husband are professors at Stanford University and her son goes to the high school attached to Stanford University. One day, the son came home from school very exhausted after all the school work he had during the day and said, "Mom, I don't know what to do with my homework tonight. There's just too much to do and it's all due tomorrow. And I'm so tired!"
So his mother said, "Well, then, why don't you go to sleep right away? You can wake up early and do the homework. I can wake you up."
Then he replied, "Thanks, Mom. That's a good idea. I'll do that."
After that, she thought he would go to bed right away, but to her surprise, he began to play the piano! More than one hour had passed, and he was still playing. It was not for the lesson. He was playing for himself to calm himself down! He was healing his fatigue from school work in the experience of music. She was truly moved at that time realizing that her little son had grown up to absorb the meaning of art for himself.
She said, "In the beginning, we did not understand what Suzuki Method was all about. However, numerous llstenings of 'Twinkles" and daily repetitions of learning how to use the body correctly all resulted in this wonderful realization of what art provides us. We are grateful."
Her speech made me extremely happy. At the same time, I thought, "What a wonderful mother she is!" Since she knows how to care about her son by just watching as he develops his own inner self.
After I came back from America in September, two former students of mine, both of whom are in medical school now, have told me similar stories. In medical school, they have very stressful lives (sometimes they have to go through difficult experiences such as learning human anatomy). Since both of them live far away from Matsumoto, they cannot come to me for lessons as they used to. Nevertheless, they said they play the piano on their own in order to recover from their daily fatigue.
In these students, I see beautiful flowers that have bloomed. The flowers were nurtured by the parents who made continuous effort to provide them the learning experience of art.
I recall Dr. Suzuki often used to say, "I am in charge of music education of all the population on the earth except for professional musicians."
As I hear heart-warming experiences of our students like this, I am sincerely thankful for having lived long enough to be able to witness the result of what the Suzuki Method brings to human lives. Piano educators like myself begin seeing children when they are as young as three years old. Then we are engaged in the learning experience together over a very long period of time, elementary school, junior high school, senior high school, college, and even after they have become adults. When we see fine, grown-up adults who we knew as little children who have their own understanding of the meaning of art in their life, we experience true joy. This is the gift we treasure.
Reprinted from the Newsletter of the Matsumoto Piano Teachers Association of the Talent Education Research Institute, Vol. 8., No. 7, December 7, 1998. Translation by Haruko Sakakibara. Hard copy edited by Dr. Karen Hagberg. Web edited by Kenneth Wilburn.
Clementi, Sonatina, Op. 36, no.3, Spiritoso (Part 2)
The feeling in measures 13-17 is very tender, so this is a place where we must sing the melody with a soft feeling. Practice especially measures 13-14 hands alone so that each hand may sing well by itself.
In the right hand, sing out the sol with the fourth finger with a soft tone and a feeling that is entirely different from the previous measure of strong, ending chords. We sing this way by moving the fingertip as we take the sound and go deeply into the key, moving the fourth finger with a natural and full motion. Singing out a first beat means to fully exhale on it.
Next, play the second beat, la sol fa mi lightly and legato with a soft tone, and follow this with a deep tone on the re in the third beat, the same feeling as we had on the first beat. Play the four notes in the fourth beat mi re do ti, softly and legato. Because the la on the first beat of measure 14 is a staccato eighth note, cut it short. Then make the next three notes, ti la sol into a triplet, and play them lightly, softly and quickly. Play the second and third beats staccato as indicated.
The left hand in measures 13-17 is an accompaniment, but it is very musical and beautiful. Do not play this in a crass way. Play each group of three notes completely legato, playing the third notes in each group with the thumb very carefully with a light, up sound. Do this by moving the thumb sideways. A very good, musical sound requires this motion. Practice the left hand throughout measures 13-17 with this same form.
From the fourth beat of measure 14 to the first beat of measure 16, there are continuous 16th notes in the right hand. To be able to play these beautifully, without losing balance, practice slowly, as if each group of four 16ths were four beats:
3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 do ti la ti la ti do ti la ti do ti la sol fa mi re do ti.
Always play the first beats carefully. It is all right to practice in rhythms by playing the first beats longer than the others. Practice this way 20-30 times a day, always counting. (The same is true in measures 16-17, 22-23.)
Because there are many black keys in measure 22, find a good position inside the black keys where you can play all of the notes in the same place. In other words, do not change your wrist or palm position.
In measures 18-26, always practice the first- and third-beat notes carefully in the left hand. Be careful throughout this passage to keep the thumb quiet.
In measure 20, execute the trill:
la ti la ti la ti la sol la.
In measure 21, play very quietly, moving the fingertips just a little. In this way, we can teach how to play piano well.
Measures 27-64 are almost the same as measures 1-26, 50 practice these in generally the same way.
In measure 28, when executing the 16th notes in the right hand, take care to play the thumb and second finger with the hand and palm in the same position.
Regarding the ff in measures 31-32: if we relax completely and soften the body, we naturally increase our weight and can play fortissimo. Even as we relax, stay in a posture where the hands are always on the keyboard.
The chords are marked staccato in measures 42- 48. The melody begins piano and gradually becomes fortissimo, after which piano returns. When playing the chords, move the fingers as if taking something, with soft, natural fingers. Practice slowly and carefully, listening for tone which is good or bad. When playing piano, move only the tips of the fingers in a state of tension. When playing crescendo, relax the tension little by little until you are playing forte.
Be careful with the chords in measures 62-64 in the same way. Do not forget how to play the first beat, the second beat, and the third beat on the same three chords in measure 64. Each of them should have a different tone quality.
This is a very useful piece for students to study. Not only can they learn a great deal with this piece, but if carefully taught, they will be able to play it very securely.
The important points are how to play chords and how to play 16th-note scales legato and beautifully. Put this altogether to create beautiful music.
(These notes were taken by Elaine Worley from Dr. Kataoka's lectures
in Salt Lake City, 1993 and Sacramento, 1992 & 1993)
Begin teaching reading when the student begins Book 2. We use the Methode Rose as the first reading book, and it is assumed that the parent will be reading all of the notes for the students. I suggest that the parent use solfege (do-re-mi) when singing the melodies for the student. It took me a long time to realize that the letter names of the notes (a, b, c, d, etc.) cannot be sung musically. We use letter names in Japan, just as you do in the United States to identify major and minor keys, but we need do-re-mi for singing. These solfege syllables come from the Italian language. If you ask the parents to sing the melodies in solfege, it is easy for children to grasp the tunes. It does not matter if the parent can sing perfectly in tune. The piano will play the correct pitch, and the parent's ability to sing this way will improve with practice. [Elaine Worley notes that in Japan, as well as in Spain, the syllable "shi" is used instead of "ti" and that this may also be easier to sing: do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-shi-do.]
In reading words, children are generally around the age of Junior High School before they are able to read and comprehend an article in the newspaper. We wait until they are at least 10-12 years old, therefore, before we expect them to be able to read language. It takes about six years of elementary school. Please be as patient in music as elementary school teachers are for language. Think about the task of teaching music reading in larger terms. Reading music is critical for pianists, much more so than for performers of most other instruments who are required to play only one line of melody. If a pianist cannot read well, he or she cannot play well.
So while the student is studying Ecossaise in Book 2, begin using the Methode Rose. Please use the edition with regular-sized notes. Do not waste your money on the large-note edition. When you want your child to learn to read language, you buy a book to show the child that there are such things as books. The child can realize and enjoy that there are books in this world. The piano reading book has the same function in the beginning. Just say to the child, "This is the book for reading." I always teach parents that whenever they use this book or place it on the piano, never, ever make the child read it. Do not make the child look at each note and play it at the same time. Don't do it!! Mothers have the same tendency as teachers to expect children to read and play at the same time. Please instead have them memorize the melody before they begin to play it. The adults should read for them and help them learn the piece just as they did in Book 1. The difference is that there is no recording. But this is all right, just sing. Sing with solfege so the child will remember the tune.
It is the same concept as buying a picture book. The child begs the mother to read it over and over if they really like it. Mothers do this when asked. They are not mean to the child, saying, "Read it on your own," after three or four times. She buys a couple more books and patiently reads it as many times as her child wants her to. The music reading book is the same experience. The child may carry the book and say, "This is my reading book," even though she cannot read it and begs her mother to read it for her. Small children cannot analyze things. They may enjoy an aria or even an entire opera before they are capable of reading c-d-c-d, etc., that kind of job. Adults can do it, and even 12- and 13-year olds can do it, and even some 10-years olds. But teachers, please help the younger children to memorize one line at the lesson, and then ask them to practice it at home. When the parent sees how it is to be done, it is easy for them to help the child learn these short phrases. They have already helped the child through Book 1. Children enjoy being read to and want to hear the same book over and over. Please do the same for piano.
There may be some parents who cannot read music themselves. Don't worry. Ask them to please just remember one thing: the treble clef, or the G staff, has five lines. It is not a big deal at all to read notes using do-re-mi. Just remember where do is on the keyboard. The "do" of Twinkle is between the second and third line from the top of the staff. That's all. Apologize for asking them to do this, but tell them there is nothing else they have to memorize. The next note up is re, and the space above that is mi, and the one above that is fa, then sol... only five notes in this piece. It is all right to write the syllables in the book above the notes of the piece.
This is a very strong suggestion to all teachers: PLEASE use do-re-mi. I am not talking about mothers being able to sing beautifully. If they keep singing as the children play the tune, they will develop good pitch. Teach them using the system of fixed do, where do is always C. This is the easiest way for children to learn the melodies.
Teach the students about the repeat sign (:) at the end of each line, and the whole note, which gets four counts. Do not expect the students to retain this knowledge, but simply repeat this information at every lesson: "This note is blank inside." When you encounter a half note, point out the blank note head and the stem and teach them that this kind of note gets two beats. If they make a mistake, you might say, "Oh-oh, look at this." If it is a pitch mistake, you might say, "Look, this is fa." At that point the student will look up at the score and see where it is, and will begin to pick up the skill of reading naturally. If they begin to get ready before playing with the wrong finger, point to the finger number and ask them what it is. They will look and read the number. Use this kind of process patiently, BUT when they play the piece they are not actually paying attention to the score. They do not need to look up at the score.
If they play the piece well, then say, "Let's try the next one." If the family is busy and the parents do not have time to teach many pieces in one week, they may be able only to play one. Some can do 5-6 pages, 12 pieces. It depends on the circumstances. Either way is fine, it does not matter. You need to make sure they can play smoothly without any interruption, without halting, correcting, or with erratic rhythm. If they do these things it is N0 GOOD!! Do not let your students do this. When they play for teachers, they have to play SMOOTHLY. They must have basic tempo and rhythm. If a student plays without these things they can never pick up the sense of tempo and rhythm. I know that teachers think that students are not yet good players and it is okay to stop and start again. If you are careful about not developing such bad tendencies, the students can become good at reading. Just keep repeating the information: This is a 3-beat piece, this is 3/4 time, etc.
Also, expect correct position, beautiful tone, good diminuendo phrase endings, and soft, moving fingers (including the thumb).
People who come to Matsumoto ask, "Why do all of the students here play so well?" It is because I never listen to unfinished pieces at the lessons. I say, "Let's hear that next week." They are allowed to play a piece only if they have completely memorized it and can play it smoothly. They need to memorize it perfectly at home. Playing piano has many facets, like the parts of a machine. If one part does not work, the machine does not work. Piano is the instruments of kings and queens! Piano enables us to do such complicated things at once. It is important to take care of the precise details from the beginning. This is how a 5-year-old can learn good reading skills before actually reading the notes. Just as this child can speak perfectly years before having any grammar lessons, he or she can learn to read music with the body. At age 10, this student will actually have the skill to read music and to play it.
Your ongoing support of Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation through dues and donations is great appreciated. We welcome your input regarding Foundation issues and we encourage your contributions to the newsletter.
From Gilbert, Arizona: Vicki Seil, teacher
Brandon Seil, student, age 13
From Campbell, California: Judy Wely, teacher
Kipp Trieu, student, age 10
From Carmichael, California: Rita Burns, teacher
Alison Barrett, student, age 13
From Orange, California: Mei Ihara, teacher
Kelly Chu, student, age 10
From Redlands, California: Rae Kate Shen, teacher
From Richmond, California: Koko Yee, teacher
Annie Yee, student, age 6
From Sacramento, California: Winnie Ling, teacher
Linda Nakagawa, teacher
Yumi Sakakibara, student, age 10
From Sunnyvale, California: Fumi Kawasaki, teacher
Luke Rickford, student, age 14
From St. Petersburg Beach, Florida: Bruce Anderson, teacher
Michelle Uichanco, student, age 10
Tammy Uichanco, student, age 12
From Atlanta, Georgia: Leah Brammer, teacher
Kelsey Kuehn, student, age 9
Veronica Lee, student, age 12
Bria Long, student, age 12
Stephanie Loo, student, aae 10
From Lincoln, Nebraska: Gloria Elliott, teacher
Katie Shrader, student, age 12
From Rochester, New York: Lisa Cash, teacher
Dorothy Drake, teacher
Karen Hagberg, teacher
JoJo Cash, student, age 11
Laura Kauppi, student, age 11
Adrienne Nott, student, age 12
Stephen Voris, student, age 12
From Pasco, Washington: Renee Eckis, teacher
Ben Stocking, student, age 12
Lately several of our members have expressed shock and dismay that Dr. Kataoka will not be teaching any usual, 5-day workshops in the western half of the U.S. and, indeed, will be teaching no workshop in the U.S. in August at all.
"What are we to do?" teachers have asked. "How can we study?" These teachers feel that they cannot travel as far as Louisville, Kentucky or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where the two June workshops will take place) and/or that their schedules do not allow for them to attend workshops in June.
If distance and schedule keep you from being able to come east in June, HAVE NO FEAR. You have a unique opportunity this summer to study in a new way which may be more enlightening than the traditional workshop.
Of course, I am talking about the International 10-Piano Concert in Sacramento, which teachers may observe as it takes shape over a period of two weeks from July 23 until the concert on August 6. For the cost of a 5-day workshop, teachers may observe as many as eleven days of rehearsals, and each day will be longer than the typical 5-hour workshop schedule. In other words, the opportunity to observe will be much more intense than in the average workshop.
What will we observe, you may ask. What is so interesting about 10-Piano-Concert rehearsals? What is to be learned from them?
For some time now, Dr. Kataoka and Ogiwara Sensei have been reporting that the 10-Piano experience is the very best way for the teachers in Matsumoto to study together. A 10-Piano-Concert rehearsal is just like a lesson. But instead of one student working on a given thing, there are 10 students. Whatever is wrong with a piece is more obvious when 10 students are trying to play it together, the practice assignment is more understandable, the results of practice more dramatic. In workshops we rarely get to see the results of assigned practice at all. In these rehearsals, on the other hand, we can see the same groups of students several times as they work hard to polish their piece together for the performance. We can easily begin to see what it takes to raise a piece to a higher level. The students in this situation have the motivation to work more and faster than they usually do. Everything in the process of learning a piece of music becomes telescoped, if you will. There is no other learning experience for teachers as valuable as this.
In addition, you can see several different teachers rehearsing their groups. We American teachers are less experienced than the Japanese teachers, and that will be apparent in our methods and our results. But we expect that Dr. Kataoka and the Japanese teachers will help us as we work by taking over the rehearsals from time to time and/or giving lots of advice. They will be in residence in Sacramento for the entire two weeks before the concert.
I have been lucky enough to attend rehearsals for five 10-Piano Concerts in Matsumoto by now, and what always strikes me is that it seems to be possible to learn many, many things regardless of where the observing teacher is along the road to understanding Suzuki Piano Basics. I sometimes think, as I have thought before this next concert in May, that surely I have learned all there is to learn at these things, having attended so many of them. But the learning seems miraculously to "snowball," meaning that at each concert I feel I learn very much more than I learned at the previous one. It has been a very exciting process for me, one which makes me enthused about attending every one of these events with very little thought about what it has cost and is costing me in terms of time and money.
The beginning of my own journey in Suzuki Method was at the first SAA Conference in Chicago in 1981 when I saw a videotape of students playing together on several pianos in Japan. I was dumfounded at their precision and could not imagine how any students ever could learn to play together like that. Watching this videotape was the one major reason for me to pursue serious study with Dr. Kataoka, because I knew of no other teacher who could produce so many good players (indeed, these were ALL her students!). Since that time, I have witnessed the level of their performance become higher and higher, and I no longer wonder how students can learn to do this. I feel I may be beginning to understand it.
So please do not despair over the change in Dr. Kataoka's itinerary this summer. The Sacramento concert will provide us American teachers with the first opportunity to study in this way without having to go to Japan to do it. Why don't you go and see what I am talking about. You may just get hooked on the experience too!!
Contact: Ms Sachiko Isihara
Suzuki School of Newton
P.O. Box 66022
Auburndale, MA 02466
Tel: (617) 964-4522
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First Online Edition: 28 March 1999
Last Revised: 4 March 2012