Memorials to Dr. Haruko Kataoka
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation

Kataoka Sensei

Memorial Presentation at Dr. Kataoka's Funeral
Yumihito Kataoka, Dr. Kataoka's Son
Matsumoto, Japan
15 January 2004

Translated and Delivered by Céline Carol Browning
Ogden, Utah, USA

I sincerely thank all of you for attending Dr. Haruko Kataoka's funeral despite your busy schedules. Moreover, I appreciate the many generous offerings and flowers of grief.

Although my mother appeared to be her usual composed self until the 10 Piano Concert on the 16th of November of last year, there were many days from the end of September when she would complain of stomach discomfort and not eat at all.

By the end of November she had entered the hospital and was informed that she had stomach cancer. Though the progression of her cancer was rapid, she always had the Suzuki Method in mind, and continued giving guidance to the piano teachers.

By the end of the year her condition had stabilized and she was allowed to return home. Once the New Year came, she said, "I have turned everything over to the piano teachers" and ceased to talk about work thereafter.

On January 8th she told each member of our family, "Thank you" and spent a day of very little pain. The night before she passed away, she responded joyfully to my sister's words, "Good night, see you tomorrow." She left us on the morning of the 9th. She seemed to be very peaceful.

Similar to your many kindnesses extended to my mother before she passed away, though we do not compare to her, we hope that you will extend your kindness to those of us who survive her.

I sincerely appreciate your attendance today. Following the ceremony, we have prepared a space for you to reminisce about her life and the many memories you have of Dr. K. I hope that many of you will attend.

A Remembrance of Kataoka Sensei
Seizo Azuma, Concert Pianist

It has been about a month since Sensei passed away. I still do not feel like mourning her death. To be honest, it seems the time has been too short to mourn. There are things like her face, her words, and her presence floating in my mind.

I have been listening the piano suite Goyesces by Granadus performed by Alicia de Larrocha who was Sensei’s favorite artist. Granadus composed the grand piano suite inspired by the series of paintings by Spanish painter, Goya. It is about an hour story between a young couple in downtown Madrid express with various melodies, rhythms, and harmonies. It is romance and at the same time mixed with love and fate, life and death, passion and regret, and dream and rest. Ms. Larrocha’s sound is just beautiful. It is not only beautiful but tells us many stories. Sometimes she is like a storyteller, and sometimes she is like a guitar player and sometimes she is like a girl who has sweet dreams. These Spanish artists succeed in the difficult work of expressing and feeling the lives of human as their destiny. The sounds with life and soul overwhelm us. The music is just beautiful. I feel that is similar to the life of Kataoka Sensei.

I am thinking about what Sensei liked. It is a view of mountains from the Alps park. She built her home close to the park about 30 years ago and moved from her old house that was near the Kaikan. She had heating unites built in under the floor. I heard the contractor had a hard time to building it because it was not so common to have this feature at the time in Japan. For Sensei, who grew up in Tokyo, Matsumoto winters were severe. However, since the new house built, she lived comfortably surrounded by her favorite things. There was a time when she had a 15-minute walk to Alps park every day. There is a great view of the Azumino valley and the Northern Japanese Alps Mountains are the backdrop from the park. It is breathtaking when you stand there on a sunny day. There is no question if you are told God lives there. Sensei probably went there often to gain her energy or refresh herself by the mountain spirits.

She was also very much into fortune telling. Once Sensei was interested in something, she would try everything she can to perfect it. It was probably 25 years ago. She was really interested in Shicyuu-seimei; a Chinese style of fortune telling. It is fortune telling by the birth date. It has many different statistics and very complicated. She started to research about the people who close to her, but it became a huge research case, and she had many note books in a short time. I was one of the people whose fortune she told, but to be honest, I was not happy to see my future through fortune telling since I was young and did not know anything about my destiny or my life. Objectively, there was nothing to be unhappy about the results. In fact, the result hit the target mostly. For herself, she talked about that she came to Matsumoto, she taught in the United States late in her life, teaching is her mission, and so on. I do not remember everything.

I am sure she will stay in our heart even we can not see her. Sensei, until I see you again.

Remembering Kataoka Haruko Sensei
Suguru Itoh, Concert Pianist
Zurich, Switzerland

It is hard to believe that Sensei passed away. I can not even express my sadness by writing a memory about Sensei. There is not enough paper in the world to write about her greatness. Regarding the piano technique she created--to take (grab) the keys with fingers, as far as I know, it has never been in any piano technique books before. The philosophy she taught us to set the lower back to balance the whole body and to play the piano with a relaxed body is one of the greatest things she left for us. On top of that, she always strove to work with and instill into children “the meaning of living seriously as a human.” She hated self-conceit and pedantry; her piano lessons taught and trained students from the inside and the bottom of their heart.

I miss so much my piano lessons on Sundays from long time ago. She sometimes became angry at a student before me and I worried myself for the next. I felt like I was always on the edge of a cliff. It was a lesson for little N from Toyama; she could not play a scale well. (I think it was A-flat major). Sensei was listening patiently, but at last she could not take it anymore and said, “What can you do if you can not play a scale? Come back next week!” I am not only talking about someone else--it happened to me, too. I once had a lesson on only one measure of Mozart’s concerto. She probably wanted teach us the importance of the first resolution. Of course N’s scale became the perfect one since then.

I can not say enough of my great memories with Sensei--like the concert trip to England or the United States. I have even stayed with her in the same room. She treated Mr. Seizo Azuma and me to an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Berlin. These times Sensei was very funny and I felt like I was given special love from her.

She loved good humor and at the same time she had strong Japanese spirit. She was very special to be able to live her own life with her way with freedom. I will never forget her beautiful presence with her words like “10,000 times saving” and “come to nothing.” I swear to live up my life to her. Thank you very much, Kataoka Haruko Sensei. I pray for you.

Thank You Kataoka Sensei for Teaching Me to Live Right
Keiko Ogiwara, Suzuki Teacher
Matsumoto, Japan

Sensei always said “I want to go back to Tokyo in the winter time. Matsumoto is too cold.” She did not wait until spring and passed away on January 10th.

The first time I met Dr. Kataoka was when she was in her 30s. Since I started writing this memory, I remembered so many memories with her. I have been with her for a long time.

When I was nine year old, my friend asked me to go to a piano lesson and I met Dr. Kataoka. Since then, Dr. Kataoka was always close to me throughout my life. There was no stereo at my house when I started my piano lessons. Dr. Kataoka told me to come to her house to listen to a recording of Lipatti. When I became a student at the Talent Institute, I was the only piano student there. She said, “You should take care of yourself from the out side if your inside has not been perfected yet.” She took me to a beauty salon to have my hair permed. She was very active and lively as a mother of two children, as an accompanist for the Talent Institute, and as a teacher at same the time.

After a while I became a teacher. I had three children and I was very tired of everything. Dr. Kataoka called me and said, “If you are not the happiest person, you cannot make people happy. To be able to do that, you have to study and become a better person.” At the time, I was only thinking about other people, not myself. She woke me up. Dr. Kataoka was always thoughtful and helped people who needed help through her life. Every time I remember her, everything is filled by love.

We have been living happily and protected by Dr. Kataoka. We would like to keep her legacy and develop it.

Dr. Kataoka always believed and respected Dr. Suzuki and she kept his legacy and practiced it. She taught us how to live as a human through piano lessons. Thank you for your untiring work. Please rest in peace and protect us from your place in heaven. Thank you.

To: Mayor Tadashi Aruga
       Kataoka Family
       Citizens of Matsumoto
       Teachers and Students of Dr. Haruko Kataoka

From: Mayor Rocky Anderson
           Salt Lake City, Utah

Regarding: Dr. Haruko Kataoka

On behalf of the citizens of Salt Lake City, I extend our deepest condolences to the Kataoka family, to the students of Dr. Kataoka as well as their parents, to the citizens of Matsumoto, and to the piano teachers all over the world who have been inspired by her teaching. She was not only a master teacher but also a mentor through the journey of life.

Dr. Haruko Kataoka first came to Salt Lake City in 1983 to celebrate the Salt Lake City- Matsumoto Sister Cities 25th Anniversary. She returned to Salt Lake City numerous times, but the most memorable time was in 1991, when she brought Japanese students and teachers to participate in Japanese-American Culture Week.

During the past twenty years, Utahans have been inspired by her unparalleled teaching skills, her dedication to the international culture of music, and her wisdom about the joy of doing one's best. Many local piano teachers, students and their parents felt compelled to travel to Matsumoto to take lessons from her and to participate in the 10 Piano Concerts. Her unique legacy lives on in Utah in the hearts of those who knew her.

A Tribute to Dr. Haruko Kataoka Sensei
Carol Wunderle and the Piano Basics Program in Costa Rica

We are so grateful for the deep, and lasting positive influence Dr. Haruko Kataoka has had and will continue to have on our lives. She has given us outstanding insights into the learning discipline for every aspect of life through researching the balance between the natural use of the body, health, and beautiful tone production. Her research and profound impact on our lives will never end as it lives through each and every teacher and student.

Thoughts about Our Much Loved Teacher, Haruko Kataoka Sensei
Gretel Von Pischke
9 April 2004

Wisdom freely shared,
Sensei's legacy of love,
Willing ears could hear.

Guiding us to make
Incremental leaps of skill.
Perfection her goal.

Haruko Kataoka Sensei
Jacqueline Block
Tacoma, Washington
6 September 2004

My first introduction to Dr. Kataoka occurred in 1982 after I had recently completed a Master's Degree in Piano Performance and had served as a Suzuki Intern at Emporia State University. Having heard her name invoked many times during my year of Suzuki training, I felt compelled to go and see her myself. The first workshop was very disillusioning. Why was she so angry? Why didn't she like anything? Why was there only one correct way to do anything? Was this really the Suzuki Philosophy?

For many years, I had far more questions than answers. I responded to her provocative ideas about how to play the piano with some reservation and skepticism. However, during this time, I researched her ideas myself and gradually realized how helpful and valuable they proved to be. By the early 1990s I was a full-fledged believer in her ideas about music and playing the piano. Whatever she said, I knew I would discover the truth for myself upon practical application. I didn't hesitate to dive into her ideas and start using them in my own playing and teaching. And the best part was that she was gradually showing her gentler, calmer side the more the teachers and students improved.

Although she claimed she was a teacher and not a concert pianist, her playing was a joy to hear. Her tone was indescribably beautiful, and when she played pieces from the Suzuki repertoire or excerpts from more advanced pieces, her sound was the embodiment of everything she taught us.

Kataoka Sensei has had a profound impact on my life as a musician, pianist, teacher, and parent. I hope I can impart to my students, teacher trainees, and children some of the wisdom, knowledge, and skills that she gave to us so relentlessly and tirelessly for so many years. I will miss her astounding passion and conviction about teaching and playing the piano and her charming, humorous stories that unexpectedly led to profound and incisive lessons about music and life. I will miss having a lesson with her this year. I will feel her presence as well as her absence every day.

Haruko Kataoka Sensei
Chisa Aoki
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
25 July 2004 and 3 April 2005 (Online)

Kataoka Sensei has open my eyes and ears to the new world of music. She never stopped researching a better sound, a better posture, an easier way to play. She gave us everything so we can give our students what she gave to hers.

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First Online Edition: 6 April 2004
Last Revised: 3 April 2005