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: March 1
As the years go by and as we age, little by little we begin thinking about many issues. What is life about? How should one go about living?
As a human being myself, I was the type of child who always asked, "Why?" about everything. Consequently, I always asked myself why we are here on this earth.
I grew up with two siblings. When I was in elementary school, I wondered why I was the only one taking piano lessons. World War II began when I was in middle school. All around our neighborhood, we saw young men being drafted, leaving for war to fight overseas, dying and coming back as ashes. Why do we have to die? For what purpose? I feel that the war for me was the beginning of the meaning of suffering. There was so much to ponder.
Human beings always hope for happiness and a good life. We each pursue happiness in many different ways. During the war, many basic supplies for living were not available, and food was scarce. At that time, I thought how ecstatic I would be to be able to eat white rice every day.
Fifty years have passed, and even with the many luxuries available to us today, I have learned that people are still not happy. Even with the many happy and sad experiences in my life, it was still not clear to me how to achieve happiness.
We can think of a similar situation in the study of piano. Sitting with balance over the center of gravity, holding the back, carrying the arms and using the fingers correctly--even when all of these have been achieved by a student, for some unknown reason he or she may still not be able to play the piano well.
It has recently occurred to me what the problem is: it is breathing. In Japan and in America, teachers and students get stiff and hold their breath when they try too hard. When we put a great deal of effort into difficult tasks, we are unaware of the state of our breathing.
First and foremost, in order to be alive we must breathe. Yes, material goods are necessary in life, and of course we need to have a good soul. But before all of this, breathing comes first. Breathing is the "basics" of living. We have to think of how we must breathe so we may use our body in the most natural way. We must breathe long, and deeply. Then, the body releases tension, and we reassume the original, natural state of our body and we are able to calm down.
Once able to do this, you can apply it to the piano and to anything else you do in life. Deep and long breathing allows you to handle everything with ease, no matter how hard the task, how difficult the situation.
Is it not human nature to hold our breath when we are confronted with difficulty? After all these years, I have finally realized this. Breathing! When I was younger, I had heard about breathing. Recently, I myself have been experimenting with ways to release tension in the body. I have come to believe that breathing is the answer. You will be able to attain all the happiness you hope for with deep breathing. Even in piano performance, when the body is natural and totally relaxed our heart and soul can overflow into the sound and turn it into music.
We tend to forget the simplest "basics" of life when we are engrossed in difficult tasks that rob our awareness. Every day, we must think first about the basics of living.
I received so many positive comments and so much praise after the concert. This came, probably, from sincere people who said things like, "The level gets better every time," "Fur Elise was very beautiful," "The Gigue is a cool piece," "What a beautiful piece the Diabelli is," "The Bach was wonderful: I was so moved by it," "How can the students play Ravel with such good ensemble," and so on.
Are my goals too high? Dr. Suzuki always said that you should set as your goal the very highest level of performance. Therefore, my goal is to perform like Rubinstein, Horowitz, and Alicia DeLarrocha. This is why I am not satisfied with the results of the 10-Piano Concert, even though I receive so many compliments. I have begun to see these compliments as encouragement from a god, telling me there is room for improvement and spurring me on to work more seriously. This thought gives me the energy to work for a better concert next time.
I should teach every lesson with total concentration and dedication. If I do not teach thoroughly at every lesson, the children will not be able to do better, even if I get energized right before the concert. I, the teacher, am accountable if my students do not practice. This means that my lessons do not inspire my students to practice. Dr. Suzuki's idea, "The children bear no responsibility," comes back to my mind. It is totally the teacher's responsibility if the student cannot play well.
You might think that being a teacher is a difficult thing. I do not mean that you must teach difficult things. You should teach the basics of piano playing earnestly, with patience, at every single lesson. It is a matter of your perseverance. The question is whether or not you can say the same thing a million times.
In the beginning is the issue of the posture. How to sit on a chair. Where the center of gravity should be. How to relax the shoulders. How to hold the arms. How to totally relax the fingers. How to keep the body balance, and so forth.
After accomplishing this, the most important thing is to listen to the sound and to determine how to produce a musical sound. This especially includes how to play scales and arpeggios, legato and staccato, with good fingering technique, beat and rhythm. It is very important to teach all of the above repeatedly to beginners, as well as to the advanced students, at every lesson.
We need the "One Million Times" approach. Anyone can be able to do things easily after ten or twenty years after hearing it from teachers or parents a million times. This applies not only to piano lessons, but also to the basic manners of everyday life. Parents tell you, "Say hello," "You must say Thank You," "Say Please," and so on. They tell you these things a million times over a period of ten to twenty years. That is why you are able to have good manners today. If a child has good basic discipline, he or she will become a well-rounded adult.
Children do not have the desire to do things in the right way. Unless someone tells them to do it, they are not able to do it. That is why it is important to say it "One Million Times." It will become the child's treasure.
I am thinking that I should teach the basics more thoroughly, giving the children a "Million- Times Savings" for the next concert.
Please look forward to the next 10-Piano Concert!
The 12th 10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto will be held on Sunday, November 16, 2003. A group of participating teachers and students will leave the United States on Friday, October 31 or Thursday, October 30 (depending on airfares) and return on the day following the concert.
All teachers are invited to observe the rehearsals and the concert. Those teachers who have had students perform in the Sacramento 10-Piano Concert or in previous Matsumoto concerts are invited to submit student applications. Student enrollment is limited, however, and acceptance is not guaranteed until all applications have been received. The deadline for applications will be in the late spring. Teachers who wish to receive teacher and/or student applications, please contact Karen Hagberg at hagberg- firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Cathy Williams Hargrave
The purpose of this series is to compare the Zen-On and Warner Bros. Editions of the Suzuki Piano School and inform teachers of fingerings and articulations taught by Dr. Haruko Kataoka, the co-founder of the Suzuki Piano School, which do not appear in past or present editions.
This Musette is from J.S. Bach's English Suite, No. 3. There are not many differences between the Zen-On and Warner Bros. (WB) editions other than a few fingerings. A parenthesis mark will be used to indicate an implied fingering when no actual finger number is printed in the book. Since Dr. Kataoka uses all the fingerings in the Zen-On edition of this piece, no special mention will be made after each measure listed.
Reconciliation of Right Hand
Measure 8, 1st Beat
WB: Finger 5 (La) and 3 (Fa#)
Zen-On: Finger 4 (La) and 2 (Fa#)
Measure 11 WB: (2) 1 2 3 4 (3) (2) 1 La - Sol - Fa# - Sol - La - Sol - Fa# - Mi Zen-On: (2) 1 3 4 5 4 3 2
Measure 12, Beat 1
WB: Finger 2 (Re)
Zen-On: Finger 1 (Re)
Measure 15 WB: 5 1 3 (1) 5 (2) (3) (1) Re - Fa# - Sol - Re - Ti - Fa# - Sol - Re Zen-On: (5) (2) (3) (1) (5) (2) (3) (1)
WB: Finger 4 (Sol) and 1 (Re)
Zen-On: Finger 5 (Sol) and 2 (Re)
Reconciliation of Left Hand
Measure 2, Beat 2 WB: 3 (4) Ti La Zen-On: (2) (3)
Measure 3 WB: (3) 1 2 (3) Ti - Do - Ti - La Zen-On: (2) (1) (2) (3)
Measure 6 WB: 3 (4) (3) 2 (3) Ti - La - Ti - Do - Ti Zen-On: (2) (3) (2) (1) (2)
Measure 7, Beat 2 (last half)
WB: 2 (Do), then 4 (La)
Zen-On: 1 (Do), then 3 (La)
Measure 8, Beat 1
WB: Finger 2 (Do) and finger 5 is continuing to hold the tied note (Sol)
Zen-On: Finger 1 (Do) and finger 5 continues to hold the tied note (Sol)
This concludes Part Ten.
Audiophiles have been saying records are back in style. My own LP collection began a few years ago when a couple of long-time family friends gave me some old records and a never-used player. A few months later, after I had hooked up the player and listened to the albums, I saw LPs on sale at the local library book-sale for twenty-five cents a record. In a world where the average CD costs over ten dollars, twenty five cents an album was an offer I couldn't refuse; that day, I probably bought twenty or thirty LPs. Now I also buy records at garage sales, thrift shops and at discount music stores.
I have also concluded that in many ways LPs are better than CDs. First, once a record has been cleaned, its sound is either indistinguishable or better than that of a CD. In many cases, the LP makes you feel like you're less than two feet away from the artist, and every note and every background noise is audible and clear in an "un-remastered, original" form. Second, LPs are amazingly cheaper than CDs since most of the records sold today are used and at least fifteen or twenty years old. Third, there are many albums sold on vinyl that are unavailable on CD. If these songs and artists are available on CD, they're either expensive because they're rare or they're expensive because they can only be found on compilation albums. Consequently, I've even had some friends ask me to copy pieces that they're learning off my LPs since they can't find the same copy on CD.
If you are interested in buying records, shop at garage sales and thrift stores. Find artists and songs that you've heard of or like. While some records are cheap for a reason, keep in mind that a lot of small scratches and almost all dust can be removed with a good cleaner, and new jackets are available at stores like Radio Shack. Records are not only special because they're high-quality, old and cheap, but they're "fun" since you can come across real gems (like Ravel plays Ravel, or classic recordings by Horowitz and Rubinstein), or real "interesting" ones (like the Louissier jazz trio with the Royal Philharmonic playing Bach's Brandenburg Concertos), whose pasts are unknown and slightly mysterious, since you don't know if another copy of this same album even exists anymore.
Some interesting LPs I have found:
Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Paderewski's Minuet performed by Paderewski
Beethoven's Moonlight, Appassionata, and Pathetique Sonatas performed by Glenn Gould
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7 performed by Sviatoslav Richter
Ravel's Toccata, Pavane pour une Infante Defunte, and other pieces performed by Ravel
Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 performed by Artur Rubinstein with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Please take time to renew your Piano Basics Foundation membership.
Send your annual membership fee of $25.00 to
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, Ca 95831
As parents and teachers we are in the business of raising our children to be responsible, honest and kind human beings. As a mother of two, age 5 and 8, I thought I had read every self-help parenting guide that was available. However, there are those times when I am quite at a loss for what to do with the emotional growing pains of my children.
This past year, I was fortunate enough to be referred to Cheryl Carlile, a Suzuki Method piano instructor, and my 8-year-old daughter began lessons. What an awakening! I have enjoyed reacquainting myself with what little I knew of the Suzuki method. I am particularly impressed with Suzuki's book entitled, Ability Development from Age Zero. It is by far the best parenting guide I have ever read.
To be predisposed with a particular talent seemed odd to me. It was enlightening to share Suzuki's views on the subject. My husband and I have always exposed our children to a wide variety of opportunities. Although some are more interesting to them than others, we have watched children grow by experience, define for themselves each area of interest, and progress with a feeling of empowerment. Their potential seems limitless, each one reaching beyond what we believed to be their capacity.
Suzuki's books as well as his entire theory of Talent Education could not be more appropriate as a parenting guide for raising responsible children. We are so grateful for our association with the Suzuki method of learning, and not just because our children will learn to play the piano, but that we as parents continue to have the guidance, understanding, and awareness of the needs of our children.
As Suzuki stated, "The Foundation of education is to carefully raise children with the ability to be fine human beings without being hindered by their individual characteristics." As parents, we have an obligation to provide a foundation for learning where each child can be the best that they can be.
Read or re-read Ability Development From Age Zero. It is my hope that it will touch your life as it has touched mine.
The Annual Membership Meeting of Piano Basics Foundation will be held in Room 104-105 of the Sacramento Convention Center on Monday, August 4, 2003 at 10 a.m. at which time the slate of officers for 2003-2004 will be elected by those present. The nominating committee, Lisa Cash and Teri Paradero, proposes the following slate of officers, who have agreed to fill their positions for another year. Lisa, email@example.com and Teri firstname.lastname@example.org will be accepting additional nominations from current members until July 15, 2003. Plan to attend!
President: Karen Hagberg
Vice President: Leah Brammer and Renee Eckis
Secretary: Cathy Williams Hargrave
Treasurer: Linda Nakagawa
The article "Planning Ahead" by Rita Burns in the November/December issue moved me to respond. For me, and for many others, teaching Piano Basics is a great passion. It has helped me discover my deepest feelings about music. Dr. Kataoka has always told me the truth about how I play. That alone has given me the freedom to express what I have wanted all my life. I owe her my deepest gratitude.
I feel that teachers can maintain a passion and love for the Basics even at times when they are unable to attend a workshop. When Rita wrote, "Maybe you feel a workshop is not worth your time because you already know everything there is to know, and you don't need it," is she being fair to all teachers? Where would she get that idea?
In my own life, I was quite ill for a time with three surgeries. Another time I had to take care of very young children. And there was the time a grandparent passed away. At times like these I became overwhelmed by the responsibilities of my life. I did miss being at the workshops that had taken place without me, but I wanted to do the right thing.
When I began studying with Dr. Kataoka, I realized that, if I were to follow her teaching, it would be like starting over from the beginning. I had studied under many wonderful teachers before that, and I had learned something different from each one. I needed time to compare and evaluate everything I had been taught before I finally came to the conclusion that I really wanted to change. I needed time to do this research for myself.
Rita also writes, "Maybe you are fooling yourself in thinking you can't afford it. Is that really true?" There is no way I could be fooling myself! I had to go into debt for my last three visits to Japan, and I will finally pay off my two grand pianos in eight months after a seven-year loan.
Based on my situation, I value every lesson and every workshop so much. I want to be the best teacher I can be. I really believe that many people deal with a lot of stressful situations worse than mine, and so we need more compassion for each other. Life is never simple, but our struggles can make us stronger. If a teacher were too arrogant or lazy to attend a workshop, that's different.
In spite of life's disappointments, one thing that restores my joy is being able to attend workshops where I can see all of my favorite people. I get to observe a lot of students and watch one of the greatest geniuses of our time... TEACH. Thank-you, Dr. Kataoka.
Tanya Matsuda, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Bruce Boiney, Director
Malinda Rawls, Assistant Director
June 11 - 15
Orange County, CA
Mei Ihara, Director
321 N. Deepspring Rd.
Orange, CA 92669
Phone: 714 997-8692
Linda Nakagawa, Director
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA 95831
Phone/Fax: 916 422-2952
There are no words that can accurately describe what takes place during the rehearsals. It is one thing to observe individual lessons given by Dr. Kataoka and we learn a lot about how to teach watching these lessons. But it is a hundred times more fascinating to see her work with ten students at a time. These are individual students with all very different characteristics and personalities. They have to learn how to listen to each other. They have to practice on their own so the level of performance can be raised. It takes a great amount of "team work," and it is fascinating to see how Dr. Kataoka helps the students pull things together.
This year the concert will be held in the new Mondavi Center for the Arts on the University of California Davis campus. We are very excited to be able to have this facility which was designed specifically for classical music in mind. Unfortunately, there are no hotels in walking distance, but there is plenty of parking space.
Students will need to arrive on Friday, August 1st and be ready to rehearse on Saturday two weeks prior to the concert.
ON STAGE REHEARSALS: MONDAVI CENTER FOR THE ARTS, UC DAVIS (AUGUST 13-14)
DRESS REHEARSAL: MONDAVI CENTER FOR THE ARTS (AUGUST 15TH)
CONCERT: 1:00 AND 4:00 P.M. MONDAVI CENTER FOR THE ARTS (AUGUST 16TH)
Return to the Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page.
First Online Edition: 8 March 2003
Last Revised: 8 March 2012