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
Rehearsals: July 24-August 6
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA 95831
Daily piano practice must be a very difficult experience for parents; there are constant encounters with their children's resistance, their sharp tongues and bad attitudes. Nevertheless, if parents have conviction about what they are doing, their children will surely cooperate with them.
After my many years of observing the relationship between students and their parents, I am convinced that children listen to their parents much more than the parents think they do. Not only that, children actually will obey parents who, out of love, set very high expectations for them. This can be a source of problems, however. If they are not careful, parents can go overboard and make demands on the child which are more for the purpose of fulfilling their own needs rather than for the growth of the child. When this happens, parents often do not realize that they are making excessive demands.
I am no exception. As I was raising my own children, I realized what I was doing on many occasions. At such times, I would tell myself that even though I had given birth to them our personalities are totally different. Our expectations are different. Both my children and I must recognize the differences, and I should not push my own things onto them. This may sound cool enough, but to tell you the truth, it took me a good twenty years to understand what it really meant.
The other day I received a letter from a mother whose daughter, a second grader, I had taught at a public lesson. She wrote,
Not only your lesson but your various heart-warming talks truly touched me. I realized that my busy life has been affecting me mentally, and that I frequently complain to my child as a result As you noticed, I AM really a picky mom." Our teacher, Miss K, always asks me to acknowledge my child, but it is difficult for me to change my emotions. I just have the hardest time gently complimenting my daughter. Recently, I have even been threatening her, saying, "If you don't practice, I will not buy XXX for you!" or "I will not take you to XXX,"... since my kind words haven't been working. Then my daughter responded to me with such a bad attitude that I slapped her!... 0 my goodness! This is not the child rearing I was dreaming about.
I found this letter to be very heartwarming, since it made me realize how serious this mother is about her child's education. It is just fine. All over the world, similar things are happening. She is not wrong at all. The enjoyable child rearing she dreamed about is not a reality, since living is truly a difficult task. The parents' lob is to teach their child this fact of life while they are young. Piano lessons (and other lessons) train children to be patient, to make effort and to concentrate. As they go through these experiences, children acquire musical art as part of their cultural life.
Please have a firm conviction that you will continue to work at this for the next ten years. When adults treat children seriously like this, children receive your guidance without questioning it. The reality is, though, that every single child in the world hates practicing, so parents definitely need some functional strategies to make them practice. Giving many compliments is not necessary. While giving compliments is fairly easy, getting angry at children requires seriousness. The more serious you are, the happier children really become. If you face much resistance, your child is a very good child with lots of strength! Any form of acknowledgment gives a child confidence. With input (love) like that, children grow up well. Childhood is indeed a time when children cannot live on their own.
Parents, please do not hesitate; continue on as you have been. You are treating your child with strictness but also with love. It you are really serious about your child's development, this concern will come out either as compliments or scolding. Whenever you think you maybe scolding too much, try giving a little dream to your child. You may say something like, "You are really trying so hard. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you can play Gigue soon? Maybe I'll throw you a party when it happens..." Expand your dream next to Turkish March, and then to Chopin. I believe that a dream can enrich human thoughts much more than any material gift.
Matsumoto Piano Teachers Association
of the Talent Education Research Institute
Vol. 8, No. 6, November 3, 1998
Illustrations by Julie Kataoka (in hard copy only)
Translation by Haruko Sakakibara
Hard Copy Edited by Dr. Karen Hagberg
Web Edited by Dr. Kenneth Wilburn
by Karen Hagberg
All right, I admit that I may be somewhat emotionally vulnerable as I write this. My partner is in Japan studying and I'm busy teaching her students as well as my own seven days a week. Here in Rochester, New York we're digging out from under the worst blizzard of the century. My dog has an injured leg. I have a stack of paperwork to attend to, including many bills. The IRS is telling me that I owe them $6,000 which I did not expect to have to pay. And I have said good-bye to two friends who died in the past two weeks. So I told Cheryl that I'd like to write a review of Seizo Azuma's new CD, but I would not have time to do it for this issue.
The CD arrived a few weeks ago and I hadn't even taken the time to listen to it. But about an hour ago I put it on,and I can do none of the pressing chores I'm supposed to be doing. I feel so moved that I have to write about this recording right now. The recording has put me into a place entirely out of this world.
Many of you reading this, like myself, have followed Seizo's career for years. Some of you have heard him play since the time he first visited the U.S. as a child. We have come almost to take him for granted. But as the years have gone by, he has turned into an artist of major proportion. Anyone hearing this recording will agree.
Those of us lucky enough to hear Seizo perform in recent years have heard all of these Liszt pieces as Seizo has carefully chosen them and refined them over a period of time. Making this recording of such challenging works at this stage in his career is a bold move, one which is timed just right listening to the results.
My very first impression, hearing La chasse, one of the Grandes etudes de Paganini, is of rhythm: pure, true rhythm with not a moment going astray. Playing exactly on the rhythm like this allows us really to hear a piece as it was conceived. There is nothing that gets in the way.
Next is voicing. Liszt is a composer who wrote many notes. Simply playing them is enough of a feat. But playing them while at the same time making perfect sense of them seems like a divine ability. We have all heard these pieces presented in a confused, muddy fashion. Many people say they do not like Liszt because of this. Listen to this recording! Many teachers do not encourage their young students to listen to Liszt because his music is too "complicated." Listen to this recording!
It is difficult to single out one work on the disc which is the most impressive. Each and every one of them goes right to the heart of the piece and the listener. It is as if the performer is not even there and the notes come directly from the score into our ears.
Seizo's technique is so flawless that I have heard him criticized as being a "cold" performer. How can anyone say this? The carefully-chosen repertoire on this recording express just about every human emotion I can think of. And all of this comes through simply because the technical demands of the music do not get in the way of what there is to be expressed. This is so different from the "noisy" renditions of Liszt we often hear.
The existence of this recording invites comparison with the recent and wonderful recording of Liszt by another Japanese pianist, Minoru Nojima, with whom Seizo studied for a brief time. Many of us, on the advice of Dr. Kataoka, have heard that recording and have also had the privilege of hearing Nojima in person. The only piece in common on the two recordings is La Campanella. Listening to the two in succession is, as with any two recordings, the best research we teachers can do, and I encourage you all to make this comparison.
The program notes, being all in Japanese, may prevent listeners from realizing that Seizo's performance of the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 is the highly embellished version which Horowitz recorded and which is not written down. Seizo learned it the only way he could, by listening to Horowitz's recording. This is another opportunity for educational comparison by ourselves and our students.
But analysis aside, this recording will transport you in the way that only great art can do. It is my hope that all of our students will have the opportunity to listen to it again and again. It will raise their sensibilities regarding their own daily practice and the very meaning of their lives.
After studying the Methode Rose, my students use Czerny Recreations as their second reading book. When they get to this book, they are usually playing in Book 3 or 4 in the Suzuki repertoire, so they are accustomed to memorizing music.
At first, teachers may think that it is impossible for parents who are non-musicians to help children read pieces at this level, but they can if they break down the task into small pieces. They have learned to sing solfege, and may continue doing this for each hand separately in this book. As with studying all other music, learn the pieces in small sections, hands alone. Play two measures of the right-hand 5-10 times, for example, and then do the same with the left-hand. After the child has learned the hands alone well, put them together. Encourage the child to work hands alone in small sections, and then together in small sections. By practicing in this way, they will do a good job, whereas if they try to do a lot at one time, they cannot do it at all. Sometimes we forget to polish one hand by itself before trying to put the hands together. But just as an orchestra does, with each musician learning the part before the rehearsal, make sure to begin with the parts learned well.
Sometimes we forget to polish one hand by itself before trying to put the hands together.
Czerny did not arrange these pieces in any particular order. In this collection there are pieces by various composers and also favorite children's folk tunes. There are various titles to each piece, some mentioning composers' names, and many musical terms and symbols contained in the score. If the student is under the age of twelve, ask the parent to use these titles, terms and symbols to launch their curiosity about the meanings of these things. Since Suzuki Method is general education for children to grow up as people who have culture and art, and not merely education to create more musicians, it is important that we teach them the correct meanings of things they encounter, and that we stimulate their curiosity about the meanings of things in their environment.
Therefore, parents are required to write definitions of foreign terms and symbols in the score for the children to see. I do not hear any piece before the parent has done this. It is not such a difficult job; there are only a limited number of words to look up. Ask students then to copy these meanings in one of the blank pages at the back of the score, creating a glossary of terms they have encountered, so they may consult their own glossary in the tutu re. Several of the pieces are identified as coming from a certain country (Italian Theme, Austrian Dance, etc.). Ask parents to find these countries on a map and to point them out to their child. If the piece is by another composer, take the opportunity to find out something about that person while the student is studying the piece. If children are not taught this habit of looking things up so that they fully understand them, the habit will not be developed and they will become adults who do not have a strong curiosity and desire to understand their surroundings. The habit of seeking in youth is very important and must be carefully developed. This is not the same as intelligence. We adults must have true affection for the students and a strong desire that they develop these good habits and bring the habits into their adulthood.
Sometimes a parent will wonder why they are being asked to write definitions for the same terms over and over as they are encountered in the score. This is the way children will really learn what these words mean, just as they really learn everything else: by repetition. Please do not ask children to memorize a list of musical terms. Encourage the parents to be patient and write down every word as it comes along, even if it has shown up many times before.
No student should get to an advanced level and remain ignorant about the meaning of titles, terms and symbols. If such students exist, it is because their teacher is lazy. We must always educate students about the kind of music they are playing (waltz, gavotte, sonata, etc.). Never listen to any piece which does not have definitions of every foreign word in the score written down in English. Actually, we are being kind to the parents by requiring them to take the responsibility for looking up things. It would be much faster if we teachers simply tell students what various things mean. But when the parent takes the responsibility for researching the score with the student, they may participate actively together in the process of discovery. They can help each other. If teachers just provide everything, no active participation is required by student and parent, so they do not develop the active habit of researching something. Teachers must teach this principle carefully to parents, some of whom may feel that all of this is too difficult. They must be required to have reference books, and taught how to use them. They do not have to remember the solfege syllables, but can be shown how to figure them out by counting up and down. They do not have to play the piano, or to have had musical training, to do these things. Although it is difficult to convince parents that they are capable of helping their children in this way, teachers must always research how to get people to do what you want them to do. Education requires research.
Never listen to any piece which does not have definitions of every foreign word in the score written down in English.
By the time a student is 12 years old in junior high school, it becomes his or her own job to look up terms and symbols in the dictionary and to write in definitions in their scores, including in the Czerny book.
When students perform the pieces in Czerny, the teacher must first of all make sure that they play according to the "rules" of the time signature and the tempo indication. In other words, the proper style and movement of the piece must be audible, so that the student is not allowed to play too slowly, or with the wrong feeling. To teach reading means not to play flat, i.e. with all the same sound. We must hear the downbeats and upbeats and the lilt of the rhythm, whether it be in two beats (down/up) or three beats (down/across/up). A waltz must sound like a waltz; a march like a march. Teachers must be able to play these pieces very well and play along with the student to transfer the correct movement of every piece.
We must understand every little indication the composers leave to us and then actually to DO as they wish.
Sometimes in Czerny there are multiple voices in the music, where one note is held during the movement of other notes in the same hand. Spend time teaching how to play these things correctly. By the time students have finished this first Czerny book, they should have become very literate. There are several other volumes of Czerny after this one which may be used until the student has become advanced. [Dr. Kataoka uses Czerny Op. 599, 718, 748, 849, 299, and 740.]
It took me many years to realize that music IS obeying the rules. Composers have many wishes. Even after they have died they leave many directions in their scores. We must understand every little indication the composers leave to us and then actually to DO as they wish. If you follow what is written in the score, it will come out right. To practice "any old way" is a big mistake. It will create a poor pianist. If you do not know how to obey the rules, then there is no use practicing. Rules in society, such as the Articles of our Constitution and traffic laws are there to make us function properly as a society. We are always required to follow difficult rules. Cultured people follow the rules. It is the same thing in the study of music.
Please join us for another great week of research. We are further privileged this year to have Bruce Anderson, Cheryl Kraft, Linda Nakagawa, and Gretchen Smith teach student masterclasses.
Depending on their age and level, students will also receive classes in MusikGarten, creative movement, jazz improvisation, theory, and piano repertoire. They will also have the option of joining the new Institute Chorus (parents too!) and participating in juggling classes.
Louisville is unique in that it combines teacher training with Dr. Kataoka and a full institute experience for students. In addition to their daily masterclass, students may apply for an extra lesson with Dr. Kataoka.
Please be advised that student enrollment and Dr. Kataoka's time, in particular, are limited, so apply early!
Dr. Kataoka will teach three hours of student masterclasses on Sunday afternoon, June 6. These three hours of observation are included in the workshop tuition for teachers. She will also teach a full day of student lessons on Sunday, June 13, in the studio of Bruce Boiney. Teachers are welcome to observe those lessons - the fee is $50.00 for the day.
There are lots of fun things to do in Louisville on the free day, Saturday, June 12. Last year, for example, one teacher won several hundred dollars trying her luck on the horses at Churchill Downs!
Housing is available at hotels in central Philadelphia or at very comfortable bed and breakfasts. A limited number of homestays will also be available for teachers and/or participating students and their families.
Teachers who enroll for all 5 days of the workshop may submit videotapes of students who wish to audition for the Friendship Recital. The videotapes and the teacher registration form must be received by April 25,1999. If a teacher is not submitting any audition tapes, they may enroll after that date, but there will be a late registration fee after May 1, 1999.
This is an Suzuki Association of the Americas approved short-term teacher training course. Trainees who are members of SAA and fulfill all the course requirements may register the course with SAA upon completion.
Plans are shaping up for the big event in August, the first International Suzuki Piano Basics 10-Piano Concert to take place outside of Japan! Twenty-one students and nine teachers from Japan will participate, as well as students from Arkansas (1), Florida (5), New York (13), North Carolina (2), Oregon (2), Texas (1), Washington (5), British Columbia, Canada (3) and, of course, California (15 from outside Sacramento and approximately 150 from the Sacramento area, for a total of over 200 performers.)
Teachers may register to attend rehearsals, which will be supervised by Dr. Kataoka, other Japanese teachers and American teachers, for a fee of $250.00 for the entire two weeks, or $60.00/day. (See the previous newsletter to understand the educational value of observing these rehearsals!!). The event rate at the convenient Hyatt Hotel is $139.00 Other hotels in the area will also be available.
BROCHURES WILL NOT BE MAILED TO PIANO BASICS FOUNDATION MEMBERS. TO REGISTER USE THE FORM BELOW. FILL IT OUT TODAY!
Official Registration FormName_______________________________________________________________
City, State, Zip Code______________________________________________
Registration Fee before June 30: ($25) (non-refundable) _______
Registration Fee after June 30: ($50) _______
Observer for Two weeks (one concert ticket included): $250 _______
Observer per day: No. of days______@ $60 per day _______
Concert tickets: No. ____@ $10 per ticket _______
TOTAL Enclosed _______
Checks payable to: Piano Basics Foundation
Mail to PBF, 242 River Acres Dr., Sacramento, CA 95831
All fees are non-refundable after July 15, 1999
Return to the Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page.
First Online Edition: 22 April 1999
Last Revised: 4 March 2012