Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops
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Linda Nakagawa, Barbara Meixner, and the Sacramento Teachers Research Group
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Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation
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Deadline for Next Issue: October 15
"What strategy do you use when your child does not want to practice?"
From the Children:
Memories of the Matsumoto Piano Teachers:
While I was in the house, and even when I was playing out in the yard, I always had my cassette tape player with me, playing my piano music. When I went out with friends, my mother gave me a small shoulder bag with the cassette player in it. One day, I was so surprised to find out that my friends were singing the piece I was learning! It was actually natural for my friends to pick up what I was listening to as we played together. Now I have deep appreciation for Dr. Kataoka and my mother who nurtured this wonderful habit in me.
My mother was very strict in my childhood, so I really did not have the courage to say I did not want to play or to just simply say "No" to my mother, even though I was always reluctant to practice. When my mother said, "Practice!" I said, "OK," and just tolerated it. There were many difficult emotions inside me. I was really mad at times when I was scolded. However, now I don't remember the bad things anymore. Now, as I have grown up, I even thank my mother for being so strict with me. I feel parents can never be too strict with children, because it all comes from love. (Keiko Nozawa)
One day Dr. Suzuki came to our concert and said, "If you hold hands with me you will have to practice two hours a day." I was really excited because I got to hold hands with him twice that day. But my mother said, "You are going to have to practice four hours a day!" I regretted it so much! (Hisayo Kubota)
This article is for those of you who have never attended a Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop. I am quite confident, that if and when you do decide to go, you will want to return. If you are like me when I was new to this method some 17 years ago, you may consider it to be a huge leap to fly out of town, stay in a hotel, be away from home for 5 or 6 days and not know a soul, just for a piano workshop. My attitude toward new ideas is a bit tentative anyway. I have been known to have a "show me" attitude when something I know nothing about is presented to me. Therefore, it took me a while to warm to the idea of attending a piano workshop away from home. After all, I do have a college education. I'm supposed to be already trained. My background is in public school music teaching. I taught a couple of years in elementary music, and then moved to high school chorus. I have a Bachelor of Music Education degree. Even though I was a star piano player in my teacher's studio in Davenport, Iowa, and even won a piano scholarship in college, I knew down deep that I wasn't very good. My teacher gave me pieces (I wanted them) that were way too difficult for me, and I knew that they sounded bad. So I minored in voice since I did not have the "talent" to be a good quality pianist.
After having taught, I married, had two kids, and wasn't involved with music for eleven years. When my kids reached the ages of eleven and fourteen I was ready to return to a teaching career. But this time, I wanted to be my own boss and work at home teaching piano lessons. I joined the Music Teachers Association of California and put the word out that I was looking for students. I searched the music stores for methods of teaching, and bought and tried every one of them. I was bored. I wondered how my teachers could have stayed with teaching so long. I taught the way I was taught, i.e., talked a lot, had one piano, therefore didn't demonstrate that much.
Soon after I had started teaching about seven students, MTAC invited a Suzuki teacher to talk about the method and have some of her students play. I was really impressed with the philosophy of the method and the fact that 3-year-olds could play. I met some other teachers who were both old and new to the method and searched for a way to get training.
My first introduction to Suzuki training was a workshop at UCLA. That followed with another at San Francisco State. I was still perplexed as to "how to teach" and "how to play." Then, my fellow teacher in Sacramento, Linda Nakagawa, came back from a workshop that she had attended featuring a Japanese teacher named Haruko Kataoka. Linda encouraged me to go. I felt desperate, so I attended a workshop in San Diego where I had my first lesson with Dr. Kataoka. I had no idea what was going on, but I sensed that she really wanted me to improve and she knew how to help me. I was also impressed with the way the San Diego students played. I wanted my students to play like that. It was then that I began a process of learning about playing and teaching the piano that would change my life.
At the least, I am no longer bored with teaching, and I am grateful every day that I "took the leap" and had that first lesson in San Diego.
Tomorrow, our tenth workshop will take place in Sacramento. We feel privileged that Dr. Kataoka agrees to come to Sacramento, and is accompanied by eleven students from Japan as well as three other Japanese teachers.
So, back to you who have not attended a Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop. If you are like I was and are bored and/or dissatisfied with your teaching, give the workshop a try. Maybe you feel like you are in a rut and would like some new ideas, or maybe you are simply curious. If nothing else, you will meet some really nice people, get out of town for a little rest and relaxation, and see a part of the country you have never seen before. Unfortunately, the summer is coming to a close and so are the workshops. Save your pennies now and plan to attend next summer.
This article is the first of a series on the Suzuki Piano Basics Workshops. If you would like any particular questions answered about the workshops, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Translated by Chisa Aoki and Teri Paradero
Edited by Karen Hagberg
These three Minuets are from a group of eight commissioned works.
First, memorize the piece. Minuets are constructed in phrases of two-, two-and four-measure sections, so memorize it accordingly.
Please be aware that each phrase begins on the upbeat (beat 3).
First, the right hand: The first note is ornamented. It must sound beautiful, just like a piece of jewelry. The more it sparkles, the more valuable it is. Every time an ornament occurs, teachers please teach students exactly how to play it. Because students are not concert pianists, please do not ask them to play ornaments which are too difficult. A simple ornament is best. Once they learn to play an ornament which is enjoyable, they may go on to play more complicated ornaments with great ease. If students are asked to play ornaments which are too difficult for their ability, they will grow to fear ornaments as they become more advanced. Ornaments are something that teachers must earnestly teach with great care. It is very important. A great pianist once said that the person who is able to play ornaments is a genius. Let us nurture more geniuses.
Please play this ornament "re-do-re-do. "Re-do-re-do-re-do" is also fine, but when we encounter the same ornament in measure 4, it is easier if it is "re-do-re-do." Play it lightly with a small sound, using small fingertip movements.
A great pianist once said that the person who is able to play ornaments is a genius. Let us nurture more geniuses.
Next comes the first beat of the first measure, "so!." THIS IS A MINUET, SO IT HAS THREE BEATS. The first beat is very important. It is not a big sound, but as the downbeat it must be sung out deeply, exhaling "sol" Next "do-mi" is very light and non legato. The third beat, "mi," "is an upbeat, so while inhaling make a very light, but clear, sound.
The next note, "sol," is the top note of the phrase and also a first beat, so please sing it out with a deep sound as you exhale. This is the end of the first phrase. The second phrase begins with "sol-mi," on the third beat. It is played lightly. Inhale on "mi" and then play the ornament in the next measure as an eighth note on the beat with a deep sound ("mi" and "ta" both played as eighth notes).
Ornaments are something that teachers must earnestly teach with great care.
Always play the next beats (beats 2 & 3) lightly and non legato as in the first phrase. The fourth measure is "do-mi," with a deep sound on the first beat, "do" and a light, shorter sound on beat two, "mi," with decrescendo from "do" to "mi." Continue the piece with similar phrasing and articulations.
PLACES THAT NEED CARE: Please be careful with the chords in measures 6-8. Using natural hands, grasp the chord with relaxed fingers and palm. If you move your fingertips (with very small movement) the chords will be very beautiful moving from the first to the second beat. Please do not hit the chords. Listen carefully to your sound.
The beginning of the seventh measure is an ornament like the one in measure three, so play the first two notes of the measure as eighth notes, the first of which is played with the LH chord on the downbeat. As before, the third beat is light. (Measures 9 & 11 are the same, as are measures 18 & 22 in the trio.)
This piece has similar accompaniment patterns throughout. When getting ready for the first beat of each measure, inhale deeply, then sing out the first beat deeply. How does one practice to become good at this? Practice in rhythms, by playing the first sound, with the fifth finger, with a long and very deep tone. Then play the remaining five eighth notes with a very small sound, in the regular tempo. Practice this diligently many times every day. When you accumulate repetitions of this kind of practice, you become able to ride the rhythm naturally when playing the notes as written.
After practicing the hands alone so they are each very good, put the hands together. At this point, we may enjoy a beautiful minuet. The first part of this piece, the minuet section, has a strong, definite feeling while the trio is more graceful. Please play the trio while imagining a kind, gentle person.
The study of this minuet is basically the same as Minuet 1. Please read the previous article on Minuet 1 and use it as a reference for this piece as well.
The first phrase of this piece also begins on the third beat. Places to be aware of: Measures 5-7 should be played with the same articulation as measures 1-2, with the first beat connected legato to the second beat, and the second and third beats a light staccato. This articulation makes the music easy to express.
The fingering on the third beat in measure 4 is 1-2-3 on la-ti-do, and then 1-2-3 in measure 5 on re-fa-la and 1-3-5 in measure 6 on re-fa-la an octave higher. Then use the thumb on the first beat of measure 7 RH.
The trio in this piece has a gentle, kind feeling just like the trio in Minuet 1.
The study of this minuet also is basically the same as the previous two. Things to be aware of:
This minuet begins on the downbeat and is full of variety.
If the student cannot reach octaves, this piece cannot be performed at its best. The octaves are played with a gentle, beautiful and musical sound while riding naturally on the rhythm.
Practice measures 9-12 in the left hand the same as Minuet 1. The trio in this piece has the same gentle feeling as in the other two.
Please play the repeated notes in measures 19, 21 and 23 rhythmically, ending on the downbeat to the following measures, which are sung elegantly. Measures 20, 22, 24 and 26 all have this same elegant feeling.
Sing out the syncopations on second beats in measures 27-34. Make sure these second beats sound long and deep. Naturally, the eighth notes at the ends of these measures are very light and soft.
Play measures 35-36 and 39-40 lightly and rhythmically, while playing measures 37-38 and 41-42 in a singing manner, elegantly, gracefully and sweetly.
All three of these minuets are such happy and beautiful pieces.
Haiku, dedicated to Kataoka Sensei
by Gloria Krueger
Deutsche Grammophon calls this one of their "legendary recordings" and with good reason. This 1960 debut recording by seventeen-year old Martha Argerich hit the music world like a storm. She went on to win the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1965. Since l979, she has recorded mostly as a member of chamber groups.
Most recently, in March of 2000, she performed a recital at Carnegie Hall which included solo, chamber and two-piano works. After this performance Anthony Tommasini in a New York Times interview said: "Few people who have heard the tempestuous Argentine-born pianist Martha Argerich play ever forget it. She is a colossal technician, a powerfully intuitive musician and an electrifying performer. Just last week at Carnegie Hall as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra...her fiery, ecstatic performance elicited a frenzied ovation, including 10 curtain calls, from a sold-out house. Though she inspires cult-like devotion among ordinary concert goers, her admirers include many of the world's most respected musicians. Mstislav Rostropovich, the great cellist and conductor, recently called her 'a pianist with no limits at all, none whatsoever.'..."
It was her teacher Friedrich Gulda who inspired her to be a "complete musician" like him, refusing to be associated with one composer or by playing exclusively solo works. This recording is important for its historical value, and also for its range of works including:
The album is exciting and intense. It is recommended especially for teachers and teenagers. You can get information on her by searching the web on "Martha Argerich". Her biography and recordings provide information and insight into the world of performing pianists.
Her recordings are available on http://www.amazon.com. The Great Pianists of the 20th Century recording of Martha Argerich is also a good selection. Additionally, her life and recordings will be the feature article in the upcoming International Piano Quarterly. A women pianist of our time who has such power and individuality is worth listening research. Enjoy!
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First Online Edition: 16 November 2000
Last Revised: 8 March 2012