SUZUKI PIANO BASICS FOUNDATION NEWS
Volume 7.4, July/August 2002
To facilitate, promote, and educate the public on the way of teaching and playing the
taught at the Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto, Japan by Dr. Haruko
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News
Editors and Layout
Dr. Karen Hagberg and Cheryl Kraft
Six Color Photos from This Issue
Hard Copy Illustrations
Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops
Renee Eckis - Translation Coordinator
Cathy Williams Hargrave - Editions
Production and Distribution
Linda Nakagawa, Barbara Meixner, and the Sacramento
Teachers Research Group
Send Articles to:
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation
P.O. Box 342, Yachats, OR 97498
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA, USA 95831
Deadline for Next Issue: August 15
A Much Better Environment!
By Dr. Haruko Kataoka
A nine-year-old student recently played the two Minuets of Bach. As I observed her carefully,
I could see that her playing style was somehow unnatural.
She held her shoulders up somewhat, but she was well taught, she practices well, and so she is
a very good student.
Then I realized that the problem was in the way she was sitting on the chair. Her thigh was
slanted down too far so that the weight of her upper body went down toward her legs (her
center of gravity was lower than it should be), making her balance unstable. She had adjusted
to this instability by raising her shoulders. Then I adjusted the footstool a little higher
and let her upper body sit back far enough on the chair. At that point her sound became much
richer. The people hearing this were surprised, and I was surprised, too.
I am always learning in this way. When we teach children, the first and most important thing
is the adjustment of the chair and the footstool. This determines the way a student uses her
body, so it is very important. Despite this, teachers, myself included, sometimes allow
students to play without the right footstool, especially when we are tired and are sick of
Children are not responsible for anything. They cannot choose their environment on their
own... We adults must make the effort to provide them with a better environment.
Translated by Michiko Katayama
Edited by Dr. Karen Hagberg
Hard Copy Cartoons Illustrated by Juli Kataoka
From Matsumoto Piano Newsletter
Volume 11, No. 11, 1 April 2002
Comments From The Ten Piano Concert In Japan
By Rita Burns
April 21, 2002
It was another wonderful experience in Japan. Most of the twenty-two teachers and twenty-two
students arrived in Japan on April 5 and went home April 22 after the concert on the previous
The schedule was full soon after we arrived. Dr. Kataoka was very generous and gave each
visiting teacher a lesson. The students who participated in the concert also had lessons
either with Dr. Kataoka or a resident Japanese teacher.
On weekdays, the rehearsals started between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. since most of the Japanese
students were in school. They usually ended at 9:00 p.m. when we had to be out of the
rehearsal building. On weekends the rehearsal days were longer, starting in the late morning
and ending in the evening.
The weather was a little colder and more rainy than in previous springs, but there were a few
beautiful sunny days. The cherry blossoms were still blooming in various shades of pink and
I think I can speak for all of the students and teachers who traveled to Japan that our hosts
were generous and gracious. There were many late night dinners after our hosts had worked
long days. The people of Japan have again demonstrated a generous spirit.
Toward the end of our stay, and before the concert, I asked the participating students to
answer three questions about their time in Japan.
The following are a few of their answers:
1. How are you and the Japanese alike?
2. What was different in Japan compared to the U.S.?
- We are all people. We have the same personalities and the same values. (Joseph
- We are learning about the same things in school. (Katie Pokorney, Arkansas)
- We like the same music; both classical and Abba. We also like the same computer games
like Solitaire. (Kipp Trieu, California)
- The Japanese and I are alike because we both enjoy good amusement park rides. (Chelsea
- We laugh at the same jokes and have the same taste in shopping. (Brooke Snyder, Pasco,
- We and the Japanese have a great respect for our elders. (Elizabeth McGuire, Nebraska)
3. What did you learn in Japan?
- It is much much safer in Japan. (Unknown)
- Everything is smaller, like the houses and the rooms. (Emily Okada, California)
- They drive on the other side of the road, and they are always polite. They will never will
say anything rude intentionally. (Katie Shrader, Nebraska)
- At breakfast they eat dinner foods. Also, they don't have dryers for clothes. They hang
them outside to dry. (Brooke Snyder, Washington)
- This is something I am still getting use to; in driving, right is left, and left is right.
The basic, everyday lifestyle is different. Technology is a bit more advanced in Japan.
(Kipp Trieu, California)
- All of the people were really really short. (Katie Pokorney, Arkansas)
- They have different customs, such as taking off shoes inside homes, and using chopsticks.
(Joseph Randazzo, California)
- Everything here is precise and specific. Pedestrians actually heed the "Go" and "Stop"
signs and the streets are SO clean!!! (Elizabeth Steinbart, Arizona)
- The people bow to one another rather than shake hands. (Marissa Pistone, California)
- The different variety of styles of clothes available in Japan is a huge difference. Many
people in Japan dress cute without exposing themselves. Americans dress too exposed.
(Elizabeth McGuire, Nebraska)
- Vending machines with hot drinks, people wearing gloves when they drive, and the majority
of students wearing uniforms to school. (Brandon Seil, Arizona)
- I learned that Japan is full of kind and helpful people. I also learned some things that will improve my piano technique. (Elizabeth McGuire, Nebraska)
- I learned to be more appreciative of the lifestyle we have in Orange County. The Japanese have much more simple lives and less material goods. (Joseph Randazzo, California)
- For one thing, I certainly learned much about piano. Two thousand times of the middle passage of the Alla Turca can get a hand really numb. (Kipp Trieu, California)
- I learned that I can handle practicing for four hours without getting really tired! I never knew I could go on so long. I also felt safer in Japan than in the U.S. (Brooke Snyder, Washington)
- The rehearsals reminded me how to practice better to achieve the best results. I also learned how to move my body so I wouldn't be stiff. (Brandon Seil, Arizona)
- I learned how to play Sonatina Op.55 very well. Also, the students clean their own schools in Japan. (Emily Okada, California)
- Besides learning many useful words and phrases in Japanese, I also learned that it doesn't matter where you are in the world, you will always share one thing in common: MUSIC. (Andy Hawkins, Arizona)
The following questions were answered by visiting teachers in Japan:
1. What was an interesting experience you had while in Japan?
2. What will you change in your studio when you return to the states?
- We were invited to watch the making of miso. First, they boil soybeans for two hours, then grind them and shape into bricks while hot and age them one week. They then wash off the mold and press into a large pot with salt and bamboo leaves with gin. (Aleli Tibay, California)
- Hearing a 2-year-old child who has already learned the Japanese custom of never saying
Mother: "Do you want to eat this? Child: No answer.
Mother: "Do you want to eat this?" (Another food)
Child: No answer.
Mother: "How about some of this?"
Child: No answer.
Mother: "So there is nothing that you want to eat?"
Child: "Yes." (Karen Hagberg, New York)
- I love how polite and respectful the people of Matsumoto are -- in stores, on the street,
and in cars. (Shirlee Rickman, California)
- The Japanese teachers inspire me to stretch to my limits and then to further expand that
limit. I have a great deal of respect for them. I also enjoyed the beauty of Japan, i.e.,
the Japanese Alps and the cherry blossoms. (Renee Eckis, Washington)
- My students had the experience of practicing more than they probably would or could in
Japan. (Mei Ihara, California)
- Yellow dust from China - the Japanese call Kohsa. It was a marvel to me. Imagine, dust
all the way from China across land and sea which caused me to wear a Japanese mask for the
first time. (Teri Padero, New York)
- I will never forget eating grasshoppers and raw baby squid. (Malinda Rawls, Kentucky)
- Observing Kataoka Sensei teaching was the most interesting experience for me. The Ten
Piano rehearsals are great opportunities for teachers to study the basics because of the
thorough coverage of major teaching points of the pieces. (Phyllis Newman, Kentucky)
- The trip to Omi Village and eating in a traditional restaurant in the mountains was
outstanding. I never thought I would eat three baby squid! The food was carefully prepared
and served beautifully. The walk after the meal to the Buddhist Shrine was a good ending. It
was a special experience to have the opportunity to walk inside the shrine. (Gloria Elliott,
You can probably ascertain from the teachers' comments what was emphasized in their lessons.
There are a few "new ideas" to me that I observed while watching rehearsals and lessons. They
- I will continue to work to change my thinking. Practicing with students everyday is
important and the example I make will determine how they play. Continuing attention to
posture -- form, for students will become a higher priority, especially advanced students. I
wish I could bring the sound from Matsumoto with me. I will work to improve my own tone,
legato and rhythm. I also will listen to more fine pianists and plan to purchase more CD's
and encourage my students' families to do the same. I am determined to work smarter to be a
better teacher. I understand that students are alike around the world - the difference is the
teaching. (Gloria Elliott, Nebraska)
- One major change in my studio will be the requirement for my students to do many more
specific repetitions in their pieces. One hundred thousand is not an exaggeration. (Malinda
- I am especially concerned about my students' arms - their ability to carry them while
playing. (Teri Padero, New York)
- I will practice differently at the lesson. I will do a better job of listening and paying
attention. (Rebecca Werner, Arkansas)
- I learned that one hundreth of an inch will make a difference in a student's posture. I
am committed to taking more care in teaching the "Basics of Body." I will also be more
specific and forceful while teaching this point in teacher training. (Cleo Brimhall, Utah)
- I am always struck by the simplicity of starting with balance of the hip being the key to
a student's playing. The realization of how important that one element is to the student's
future playing is what I hope to take home to my studio. (Renee Eckis, Washington)
- I am going to work on posture first. I need to help my students feel their center of
balance in their hips. Hips back, chest forward. I am also going to insist that all parents
monitor their children's posture at home, no matter what age or level the students are
playing. They will only develop good balance if they practice playing with good balance and
posture everyday at home. (Shirlee Rickman, California)
- I will carry my arms better so that my students will carry their arms. (Karen Hagberg, New
- I will be more careful with my own posture so I can be a better model for my students. I
will also talk less and demonstrate more. (Aleli Tibay, California)
Thank you to all of the teachers and students who generously answered the questions and
returned them to me. Your comments are interesting and educational.
- When rehearsing with students, have available an 11th piano for the teacher to demonstrate
during rehearsals. (Therefore, if you are having a 4 piano concert, have 5 pianos, etc.)
- If you are an adult teacher and your feet cannot touch the floor when sitting at the
piano, wear high heels, don't use a footstool. If you are a teacher training teachers have
high heels available for this purpose.
- Think about using the Ten Piano Concert in Sacramento, California as a stepping stone for
a student to experience before going to Japan.
- When rehearsing with students in a multiple piano concert, just as when teaching an
individual lesson, you have to demonstrate good sound by playing, not talking.
I will see you all this summer at a workshop and again in Japan in 2003.
The Suzuki Piano Basics community mourns the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Toni
Hemming, of Tacoma, Washington who passed away in April of this year due to complications from
cancer treatments. Toni kept up with her twenty students until she passed away, and they
continue to study with a piano basics Suzuki teacher in Tacoma, Washington. Toni is
remembered by all as a person who never met a stranger and when asked what he remembered most
about her, an eight year old student immediately replied, "She never gave up on me."
When Will YOU Go to Matsumoto?
By Karen Hagberg
Rochester, New York
April 21, 2002
If you are a teacher who has never gone to Matsumoto to observe the rehearsals and the 10-
Piano Concert, doesn't it make you want to go when you read about the latest one? It is truly
a unique learning experience, and teachers who are serious about studying Suzuki Piano Basics
are always welcome.
A major reason to produce such concerts is to give us teachers the opportunity for ongoing
training. Teaching a given piece never seems quite so clear and obvious as it does during
rehearsals for a multi-piano concert.
Preparing one's own student(s) to participate in a big event like this is an even higher level
of participation, during which you can learn even more than is possible from observation
alone. Think about what a wonderful opportunity it would be for one of your students to go to
Japan to perform.
As the teacher, you can start now to lay the groundwork for your future study in Japan. More
and more teachers from other countries want to participate in the Matsumoto concert, and there
is a limit to the number of visiting students who may be accommodated as guest players. How
can you best get ready and have a student accepted to perform?
First, because the goal of the concert is ongoing teacher training, begin to attend summer
workshops with Dr. Kataoka regularly if you do not already do so. Bring students to the
workshops for lessons with her. It is best for students to have had a lesson with Dr.
Kataoka before going, but most important is that the teacher is studying regularly. Teachers
and students should be aware of what to expect before they make the trip to Japan.
Second, enroll the student first in the Sacramento 10-Piano Concert (next one to be held in
August 2003). Teachers report that they can learn much more at the Sacramento concert for two
reasons. Because American students are less developed than the Japanese students, rehearsals
begin at a level which we can all fully understand. In addition, there is no language
barrier, since the rehearsals are conducted in English.
In the case of both concerts, students will need to be in residence for rehearsals for about
2 1/2 weeks with their teachers.
You may always attend either concert without students so that you can study the event first on
your own. This is also important preparation.
The next Matsumoto concert will be held in the late fall of 2003 (just 3 months after
Sacramento). The concerts in Japan are on an 18-month rotation schedule. The concerts in
Sacramento are in August, every other year. It is not too early to open up your calendar and
decide which events you can attend. Watch for announcements and enrollment instructions in
this newsletter. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming 10-Piano Concert!
The 10-Piano Concert
By Joseph Randazzo
Hello, I am Joseph Randazzo and I am 14 years old. This is my second time coming to Japan to
play in the 10 Piano Concert. Although this will regrettably be my last trip here, I've
learned very much and have gained much experience. Learning to play a piece better, which was
always the main goal of the trip, was constantly fun to do. After getting used to the
hundreds of times a day practices for each part, it became fun to finally have all 10 pianos
play together beautifully and especially to hear myself improve as well.
As well as learning the piano, it was fun to travel to Japan all together. In staying at the
house of a great home-stay family, I learned the Japanese way of life, such as their food,
customs, and even their schools. Another thing in Japan that I do, one of my favorites, is to
meet new people. I look forward to going to see friends I have met a day, a week, and 18
months ago! Being a young, active, social teenager, I really enjoy meeting and talking to
people at rehearsals, places where we go sight-seeing together, the amusement park, the
concert, and at the banquet.
All together, I have gained very much in coming to the 10 Piano Concert in Japan, and would
like to thank Dr. Kataoka for giving me such a great opportunity such as this. And as for
other students. I hope they have learned and enjoyed this experience as much as I have. Thank
you very much for your time.
(In Japanese) Thank you Kataoka Sensei. I will always remember how much I enjoyed this trip.
Arigato gozai mashita!
for the most recent edition of Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Discography:
Recommended Recordings, Books, and Videos of the Suzuki Piano Repertoire.
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Website address: http://core.ecu.edu/hist/wilburnk/suzukipianobasics/
Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn,
Return to the Suzuki Piano Basics Home
First Online Edition: 31 August 2002
Last Revised: 8 March 2012