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
67 Shepard St., Rochester NY 14620
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA, USA 95831
Deadline for Next Issue: 15 October 2003
At the beginning of June, I went to the U.S. to teach teachers and students at the Suzuki Piano Summer School which is held every year in the music building of the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky.
Though it varies from place to place in the United States, the school year in Louisville ends at the end of May. Summer vacation lasts two months during June and July. Because of that, we can use the facilities (the dormitory, practice rooms, and wonderful concert hall) at the university. The situation is very good. By using the entire music building, the teachers' workshop and a student summer school may be held at the same time. There were 120 students and 50 teachers enrolled this year.
These 50 teachers are very enthusiastic, and most of them participate in the workshop every year. There are only a few new teachers.
I was very surprised when Prof. Oliphant told me that this was the 19th time I have come to Louisville, and that next year will be the 20th. I thought it had been a long time, but I was really surprised to hear that it was 19 years by now. In the beginning, for the first five or six years, it was really difficult. The teachers' posture was horrible. I kept asking them to fix it. I also kept asking them to set the chair at the proper height, and then to set and stretch out the back. I repeatedly asked them to place their hands on the keys. I can write this in just a few sentences, but it took so many years to fix it. Both the teachers and I had to be patient and make a great effort. I am impressed myself that I was able to ask the same thing over and over so many times. This is because I believed in Dr. Suzuki's philosophy. During my study with Dr. Suzuki over a period of 20-30 years, he said the same thing over and over. I was always impressed by that. Without realizing it, that habit stayed with me.
In the past five or six years, I can see the result of 19 years of effort in Louisville very clearly. The teachers' and students' technique has suddenly improved. Now I only have to ask the new teachers to fix their posture. Generally, the other teachers play now with good form. Everybody plays on the keyboard and has learned to play a quiet accompaniment.
Stuart Nishiyama and Dr. Haruko Kataoka. Photo by Kyle Kumasaki
Of course, when teachers improve, students improve as well. There are student concerts held each year. These used to be so poor that I could hardly listen to them, but lately they have improved greatly. When a summer school improves every year like this it is a great pleasure for teachers and parents. The reason for this improvement is Professor Oliphant, who not only knows how to play the piano but also knows the quality of a piano method. She chooses teachers to teach students at the workshop. Most of the teachers from the United States, Canada, and Europe are graduates of the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto and studied with me for a long time. One parent said, "I am so happy to be here. Teachers taught my child how to practice and to play with good technique. I was also impressed by Seizo Azuma's concert. I have never been to such a good workshop."
Suzuki Method first appeared in the United States on the west coast. Louisville is in the east, and the level of playing was very low in the beginning. I did not look forward to teaching there, but now I am very happy to go.
Dr. Suzuki said, "Something is wrong if results are gradual, like a steady, oblique line. Good progress is usually represented by a horizontal line that jumps up suddenly and then becomes horizontal again. With patience and effort it will suddenly jump up again. This is real progress."
This is the way that teachers and students in Louisville have improved. Do not give up even when you are proceeding on a horizontal line. It is important to work hard with patience and effort.
One bit of information about the Warner Brothers editions of the Suzuki repertoire concerns the covers. Volumes 1 and 2 state in red lettering that they are the revised editions. The cover of Volume 3 does not indicate this book has been revised, but indeed it has. However, some Volume 3 books have the most recent Warner Bros. cover design but do not have the revised fingerings.
Reconciliation of Right Hand
Measure 2, Beat 3
WB: Finger 5 on Do
Zen-On: Finger 4 on Do
Dr. Kataoka uses the Zen-On fingering.
Measure 14, Beat 2
WB: Finger 3 on Sol, Finger 5 on Ti flat (Thumb on Re)**
Zen-On: Finger 2 on Sol, Finger 4 on Ti flat (Thumb on Re)
Dr. Kataoka uses the Zen-On fingering.
Measure 21, Beat 1
WB: Thumb on Mi flat
Zen-On: Finger 2 on Mi flat
Dr. Kataoka uses the Zen-On fingering.
Reconciliation of Left Hand
Measure 1 and Measure 4
WB: Finger 5 on Fa, Finger 3 on La (Thumb on Do)
Zen-On: Finger 4 on Fa, finger 2 on La, (Thumb on Do)
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On fingerings.
Measure 7 and Measure 16, Beat 3
WB: Finger 2 on Fa
Zen-On: Finger 3 on Fa
Dr. Kataoka teaches Finger 2 on Fa.
Measure 8, Beat 3
WB: Finger 5 on Do (Finger 3 on Mi, Thumb on Sol)
Zen-On: Finger 4 on Do, Finger 2 on Mi (Thumb on Sol)
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On Fingerings.
Measure 9, Beat 3
WB: Finger 4 on Fa
Zen-On: Thumb on Fa
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On fingering.
Measure 10, Beat 1
WB: Finger 5 on Mi, (finger 3 on Sol, Thumb on Do)
Zen-On: Finger 4 on Mi (finger 2 on Sol, Thumb on Do)
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On fingering.
Measure 25, Beat 1
WB: Finger 5 on Ti flat
Zen-On: Finger 4 on Ti flat
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On fingering.
*Note names are listed without changing the syllable for a note with an accidental. For example, B flat is listed as Ti flat.
**Fingerings indicated in parentheses are implied but not actually printed in the books.
This concludes Part Two.
1. increase our memberships by encouraging other teachers and parents to join
2. think of creative ways to generate gifts to the foundation
Let's all do our best to keep our important work alive.
There are many people who begin to learn to play the piano. It is hard to be able to play well. What can be done about this?
Following is a list of the post Suzuki Book 7 pieces to be performed in the upcoming 10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto this November. Listed with each piece are the pianists Dr. Kataoka recommends students and teachers listen to, and the currently available recordings.
Mozart is a great composer for that 24 hour listening assignment because of its calming effect. (Ludwig van Beethoven and Sergei Prokofiev don't work as well for sleeping! [Web editor and Suzuki Dad's note: we all sleep well to Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas softly playing throughout each night; the Beethoven cds and Dr. Kataoka's Books 1 - 3 cds alternate])
There are two discs with this name. The other disc is all Rachmaninov compositions. They are digital recordings taken off of piano rolls. There is interesting information about this process on the inside cover.
This is on the same disc with the "Turkish March" listed above. There are lots of other great pieces on this disc too.
I have not been able to find the disc through searching various websites for availability. I have a copy that I obtained from Japan and it is a wonderful disc. There is a recording recorded by Brendel which you can try as it is only $4.95.
The first movement of this same Sonata was performed in the previous 10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto. At that time, students listened to the recording of the same Sonata performed by Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu. You can check the Piano Basics Newsletter Volume 7.2 March/April 2002 issue for a review of that disc. It's great to have both recordings!
Advanced students are often asked to listen to many different recordings. These three performers provide good basic listening of Chopin for a teachers library as well. There is only one available recording of Cortot on this piece and it is a 6 disc set at a very reasonable price - (around $33.95)
The easiest way to buy any of the discs in this article is online at any of your favorite music websites. Most of the research for this article was done on www.Amazon.com and www.Towerrecords.com simply because it is easy to use their search engines. Some of the recordings will be readily available at your local music source, and additionally they can special order for you if you do not use the internet.
The 10-Piano Concert. Photo by Kyle Kumasaki
At times I felt overwhelmed in planning, coordinating and financing such an endeavor. We had to get the facilities (Sacramento State University Music Hall, the Sacramento Convention Center and the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts); obtain and move pianos; secure host family for homestays; obtain a video crew; make and print the program; contact various media sources; sell tickets; secure donations and have fund raisers to pay for all the expenses, and the list goes on and, but in the end, it was all worth it when I saw all the students on the stage at the Mondavi Center for the final bow. The positive comments I heard from the parents and the other teachers after the concert only reinforces my belief that all the work was worth it.
There is no question in my mind that the students, parents and teachers who participated in this 10-Piano concert for the full two weeks were given a rare and wonderful gift. It is a gift they can keep with them forever.
Despite all that needed to be done, my deepest concern was the concert itself. I know my greatest responsibility as a teacher is to prepare my students in the best way I know how. I think every teacher feels this way. In the Sacramento area, we started rehearsing the groups at the beginning of July in the music building at Sacramento State University. Most of the groups had a difficult time staying together, but the teachers worked with the students individually and in groups. During each rehearsal, there was improvement. We practiced the different sections of the pieces with them. We had them practice hands separate. We tried to get them to play with better tone and stay on the rhythm. We tried to prepare them in the best way we could, so they would feel confident and well rehearsed BEFORE the other students arrived on August 2nd.
When the students from the other areas arrived, we practiced at the Sacramento Convention Center. It was shocking to hear the groups when they first played together. Each day, however, we made improvements. It is amazing what children can do when challenged and given proper direction.
When we moved to the Mondavi Center, everyone could feel the excitement as the concert neared. I could see the smiles on the faces of the students and parents, reflecting upon their happiness and excitement about the upcoming event.
Dr. Kataoka and the teachers from Matsumoto led the groups during the rehearsals. From these rehearsals, their weaknesses became very evident. The students diligently practiced at the rehearsals and at home to overcome their weaknesses. There were 27 pieces in the program. The teachers who stayed and observed all the rehearsals learned a lot. We learned what to practice, how to practice, and how to take things to the next level.
The Mendessohn group had to practice EVERYDAY! Other groups came back for extra lessons also. It was amazing to me hard the students worked. Many families had to travel long distances for the many rehearsals. Families with two or more children along with families that hosted students usually were in the rehearsal hall for hours. Everyone was very busy. Many of the families had to fight rush hour traffic. Students would scurry to the backstage to get ready for their lesson time. Students were practicing in the lobby of the Mondavi Center to perfect their pieces. Teachers were trying to work out the logistics of where the students were to be during the performance. You could feel the hustle and bustle everywhere. And yet, there were smiles on their faces.
The concert day finally arrived. I couldn't help but think about the earlier rehearsals. I prayed that all of the students would have a good experience. There was excitement in the air. The hall, which seats 1,800, was practically sold out. The students were dressed up. The boys looked so handsome in there suits, and the girls looked so beautiful in their gorgeous dresses. It was amazing to me how children "rise to the occasion." After the concert, it was very exciting backstage. Students were excited about the concert, and parents were obviously very proud of their children.
After a concert of this magnitude, students can feel a sense of accomplishment, and parents can take pride and joy in their children's accomplishments. Teachers also learned what children are capable of doing when given the opportunity and proper guidance.
Keiko Kawamura Sensei beating time to a rehearsal. Photo by Kyle Kumasaki
Dr. Kataoka in hands position. Photo by Kyle Kumasaki
Dr. Kataoka wearing a gift from American teachers at banquet after the concert. Photo by Kyle Kumasaki
My first reaction was a sense of honor that my son was asked to play in the 10-Piano Concert. The preparation that Jack did prior to the concert was and is a very good experience for him. This is life. If we want to perform well at anything we endeavor, we must practice. We must learn to focus and be able to do "extra" work in order to be at our best come "game time," whether that "game" is a test at school, an athletic event, a speaking engagement, or a piano concert.... Anne Gardner, parent, Mei Ihara studio, Orange, CA
How can parents express how extremely proud they are of their children without embarrassing them?... what a delight to see them onstage, self-confident and handsome and beautiful. This is a life experience that will stay with them forever and help them build on their foundations as wonderful people. When it was over, both of them wanted the experience to last longer.... Guy and Victoria Randazzo, parents, Mei Ihara studio, Orange, CA
One of my favorite memories of the day was late that night as I was helping Elyse dress for bed... she became very quiet. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "Oh, Mommy, it's the end of the day and I don't get to play Musette at 10-Piano ever again." And a few minutes later I heard (in a very dark and quiet house) Musette being played all by herself one last time. Kathy Kamibayashi, parent, Shirlee Rickman studio, Fair Oaks, CA
WOW! This is a really amazing thing to do. This is one of the most "experienceful" things I'll do in my whole life... Two people next to me played a REALLY fast tempo at the dress rehearsal and they got busted by one of the Japanese teachers, but in the end it turned out well.... Kaitlyn Oslund, age 11, Shirlee Rickman studio, Fair Oaks, CA
The 2003 10-Piano Concert was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. The night before the Concert I found myself looking forward to it almost (if not more) than my birthday or Christmas.... Matthew Kamibayashi, age 12, Shirlee Rickman studio, Fair Oaks, CA
It taught me a lot about teamwork. I learned that for others to sound or look good, YOU have to practice and work hard yourself!.... Rebecca Bills, age 10, Shirlee Rickman studio, Fair Oaks, CA
It was neat to get to know everyone in my Wild Rider group. In all we were from 5 different states and about 5 different ages (ranging from 8 to 13). I can't wait till the next one! Lindsay Mosbrucker, age 13, Shirlee Rickman studio, Fair Oaks, CA
I can honestly say this is one of the most stressful and rewarding things I have ever done... Mendelssohn. My Mt. Everest. I have never worked so hard... I could easily have spent over an hour on each and every page... I soon found myself WANTING to spend three hours a day practicing that song!... I felt I was the underdog the whole time, but I'm so relieved and happy that I got through it and that my team pulled together... I don't remember ever working this hard...I am so proud of my whole Mendelssohn team, and through all the hectic scheduling and practicing, I think we all bonded. This is a thing I will never forget. Leslie Huey, age 16, Shirlee Rickman studio, Fair Oaks, California
Return to the Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page
First Online Edition: 7 February 2004
Last Revised: 8 March 2012