Vol. 11.1 January/February 2006

To facilitate, promote, and educate the public
on the way of teaching and playing the piano taught at the
Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto, Japan by Dr. Haruko Kataoka.

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News

Editors and Layout
Dr. Karen Hagberg and Teri Paradero
Mayumi Yunus - Translations
Phyllis Newman - Proofreading

Web Editors
Carol Wunderle - Vol. 11.1
Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

Hard Copy Illustrations
Juri Kataoka

Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops

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
Fax: 585-244-3542

Linda Nakagawa
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA, USA 95831
Phone: 916-422-2952

Next Deadline: February 20, 2006

The Potential of Human Beings

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Piano Newsletter
Vol.12 No.4, September 2, 2002
Translated by Mayumi Yunus
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Hard Copy Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

People think that they try their best to work or study every day and tend to believe that is all they can do. Although they may have the potential to do more things, people usually limit themselves.

Is that really true? When I was younger, I thought about it all the time and wondered if I had explored all my possibilities.

I always remember what happened when I was eighteen years old. It was during the war. A bomb hit the house two doors down from my house and the houses nearby started burning. My sister and brother went to help put out the fire, and I tried to move valuables from our house to the shelter. It all happened in about two hours.

The next day I moved everything back to the house from the shelter, but surprisingly it took almost all day. Moving out took two hours and moving back took a whole day? Something happened to me in those two hours. There is a Japanese saying, “Kajiba no bakajikara,” which means you may have great physical power in the event of a fire. There must have been some special power given to me at that time.

About a month ago, I saw Hiroyasu Shimizu on television, the winner of a gold medal in the winter Olympic Games. He said, “I will work hard again to try for the next Olympics four years from now. This is not because I want to win a gold medal again or to hold a world record, but to challenge myself. I believe that all the people have wonderful power but we are using only a fraction of it. I want to challenge the potential that exists in the rest of the ability I am not using.” I was moved. It was wonderful to hear what he said. I realized that I too have the potential to do more, even though I am old. I was energized by him.

In the world of music, the great performers never forget to work hard. I believe that they are also challenging themselves and their potential. I always feel the same way when I conduct rehearsals for our 10-piano concert. Of course I feel the same during regular lesson time as well. When I ask my students to make bigger or smaller sound, sometimes I feel as if I am asking too much and I see only their limitations. However, when I ask again more strongly, they sometimes show me surprisingly higher quality.

Children have great potential. Teachers have to help by asking them to create possibilities for themselves. Never think they are too young. If teachers are lazy, children will never able to grow into their potential. Children are not eager to search for their potential on their own, so adults have to help them by creating a good environment. Teachers, never give up! Be patient and try hard. You will find that all people have wonderful potential, and your life will be brighter. Dr. Suzuki always said, “You cannot do it? That is only because you did not practice.”

Just the thought that there is still a great amount of unused potential…brings enormous joy to life, don’t you think?

Workshops and events in this newsletter and on the Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation website:

--- New Guidelines ---

The Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation has been receiving many requests to be included on our listings of upcoming events both in this newsletter and on our website, and we are happy that these resources are becoming so important in the community of Suzuki piano teachers worldwide.

In an effort to continue promoting the teaching of Dr. Haruko Kataoka, as stated in our mission statement and in our bylaws, we will continue to list those events that earnestly pursue this goal.

To appear on our listings, the term “Piano Basics” should appear in the title of the event. The title of a book of the Suzuki Piano Method (Book 1, Book 2, etc.) should not appear in the title. Dr. Kataoka eventually refused to teach workshops with book levels in their title because she felt that this sent the erroneous message that teachers could learn to teach a given book in a 5-day period and could therefore learn how to teach the entire method in the span of seven 5-day workshops. She promoted lifelong continuing education for herself and for all Suzuki piano teachers.

We will do our best to confirm that organizers intend to provide good seating equipment and two good acoustic pianos in all teaching situations, and that the number of students be limited to four per hour for Book 1 and three per hour for Books 2 and above.

It is our hope that our members may assume that events listed here are organized in this spirit of our overall goal and purpose.

The Spirit of Kataoka Sensei: the Importance of Continuing Research

by Joan Krzywicki (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Suzuki Sensei changed my life with his simple yet profound philosophy. Kataoka Sensei changed the way I play the piano. She introduced me to concepts of piano technique that opened up possibilities I had not previously imagined. By learning to play on my finger pads and move my fingers, I was able to play fast passages cleanly and easily. Playing octaves became so free when I relaxed my arm and moved my fingertips on each one. There are so many examples. Carrying the arm, relating strong and weak beats to up and down or inhale-exhale, and simply the inner quiet of “get ready” have all brought me to higher levels of ability.

Every time I play the piano I remember the lessons I had with Sensei. She challenged me to play with less motion, softer accompaniments, and deeper tone than I had ever before experienced. And above all, I learned to listen at a whole new level: to music,to tone, and to my inner feelings.

Alas, Kataoka Sensei will no longer give me a lesson in person. And as powerful as the memories remain, they are not enough to sustain my continued growth as a piano teacher. Personal research is very important, and Sensei always reminded me to keep doing it. But it is the contact with other teachers that lets me look more deeply into my thoughts on piano technique in relation to the ideas of others.

Research group meetings are very much a part of my environment in Philadelphia. I am so fortunate to have several colleagues near me who are dedicated to Sensei’s teachings. We can talk about basic piano skills, or we can seek advice from each other on teaching techniques, parent issues, business issues, etc. Lately we have been playing down-ups for each other. We videotape them and discuss them together. It is always amazing to me that I often look or sound different on the video than I think I do. Each session is stimulating.

Attending the Piano Basics Research Workshop in Rochester, New York in early November took the research group concept to an even higher level. What an incredible opportunity it was! Twenty-eight teachers came from various corners of North America. The four days included teacher lessons, student lessons, and a student recital. There was even a session of relaxation yoga where we could all explore our physical selves away from the piano. And there were numerous opportunities to talk “shop” with old friends and new ones.

Observing lessons reminded me of areas in my own teaching that need improvement. Doing repetitions is a skill in itself, and I never looked at it that way before. Down-ups are a foundation for the rhythm of any piece, not just an exercise for tone and the use of the whole body. And the different personalities of the various teachers reminded me that our mandate is to teach skills, but how we do that can vary. It is important that we each find our own most effective delivery of piano basics. Dr. Suzuki told us that “any child can.” We are only limited to do this by our own abilities as teachers.

The overall atmosphere for four days was of cooperation and sharing. Serious study took place, and everyone became empowered with new ideas. I know that everyone there had to be aware of the presence of Kataoka Sensei’s spirit. What a genius she was! She not only gave us her knowledge of piano basics, but she led us to a way to carry on this work after her death. Thank you, Sensei, for giving us friendship and the strong desire to continue to meet together to research. I look forward to the next opportunity very much.

Suzuki Piano Basics Discography

The web editor of, Ben Smith, has announced his donation of $85 to Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation, the return on sales for the Piano Basics portion of his website for 2005. Many thanks to Ben for contributing his work to the Foundation, and to all who have ordered materials through this valuable resource. Please continue to use this website for your teaching needs in addition to the Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation catalog of resources (listed on page 8.

Japan 10-Piano Concert 2006

The upcoming 10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto on Sunday, April 30 will be attended by the following 20 foreign teachers and 16 students from all over the United States:


Christine Albro, Cary, North Carolina
Chisa Aoki, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Leanne Anderson, Pasco, Washington
Robin Blankenship, Marietta, Georgia
Jacqueline Block, Tacoma, Washington
Bruce Boiney, Louisville, Kentucky
Leah Brammer, Atlanta, Georgia
Rita Burns, Carmichael, California
Lisa Cash, Rochester, New York
Huub deLeeuw, Utrecht, Netherlands
Melody Diehl, Chesapeake, Virginia
Suzanne Dixon, Asheville, North Carolina
Karen Hagberg, Rochester, New York
Mei Ihara, Orange, California
Linda Nakagawa, Sacramento, California
Malinda Rawls, Louisville, Kentucky
Barbara Ruffalo, Saint Petersburg Beach, Florida
Clare Sie, Republic of Singapore
Ann Taylor, Tucson, Arizona
Chris Tsai, Livingston, New Jersey


Emily Barrale (age 17), New York
Eliza Block (age 11), Washington
Nicholas Butler (age 17), California
Taj Costa (age 16), California
Julia Gasperson (age 17), North Carolina
Arisa Katayama (age 14), Kentucky
Robert Knickerbocker (age 13), New York
Alex Krolewski (age 13), California
Andrew Loo (age 15) Georgia
Kelly McCormick (age 15), Kentucky
Shravan Prasad (age 14), North Carolina
Shannon Russo (age 13), Florida
Marjorie Saviano (age 14), Georgia
Alexander Smyth (age 15), Washington
Rebecca Willett (age 11), Virginia
Sydney Woods (age 14), Arizona

Lessons from Kataoka Sensei, III

The Importance of Good Seating Equipment

by Karen Hagberg

Certainly two of the most basic points in Dr. Kataoka’s teaching are body balance and posture, for the ability to do everything else depends on these. We cannot relax without good balance and posture, nor can we produce tone, or stay on a rhythm, or develop a natural and agile technique. Without balance and posture it is futile to attempt anything else. The result will only be physical injury and/or poor, unnatural sound.

Seating is prerequisite

Good seating equipment is prerequisite to the study of balance and posture, both for children and for teachers. Even with the best equipment, balance and posture are things that one never completely “learns.” Rather, they are subtle things that can be refined over an entire teaching career so that we become increasingly better at understanding them. Good seating equipment will not automatically make us good at seating ourselves and teaching balance and posture to our students, but without the equipment we cannot enter into the world of balance and posture even to begin to learn about them.

This is not new information. So I am frequently surprised to find, after so many years of Dr. Kataoka’s teaching here in the United States (not to mention my own teaching and the teaching of so many colleagues), that many teachers still do not require that their students have proper seating at home before beginning lessons, and that a disturbingly high percentage of teachers do not even have good equipment in their own studios. It becomes clear to me, within the first few moments of a lesson, whether or not the student is using good seating at home. The more advanced the student, the longer he or she has practiced with poor posture at the wrong height, the greater the problem, the longer it would take to fix.

Once a week is not enough

Why do all teachers not insist that their students have good seating at home? The only possible conclusion is that they have not been taught the importance of seating yet. And this means that they have not been taught the importance of balance and posture. We who teach teachers have to try harder.

The environment is everything. When a teacher is sitting on the non-adjustable bench that came with the piano, of course the parent and the student learn right away that an adjustable bench is something one “outgrows.” If the student is tall and over the age of eight or so, the parent feels willing to wait until the student would no longer need the adjustable bench anyhow. (And after all, the family friends who are studying with traditional teachers don’t have to get all this strange, expensive equipment.) If we teachers have learned nothing else, we should know by now that it is impossible to teach the importance of something we ourselves do not do, impossible to require the use of things we do not ourselves use.

Children will also learn, from the example of a person playing the piano at the wrong height, how to sit at a piano. They will begin to look like that person when they themselves sit down to play. Kataoka Sensei often said that she could tell whose student was playing at a workshop lesson after having taught the teachers beforehand, because students play exactly like their teacher. I used to think she was exaggerating, but I have now taught long enough that I find I can match up students with their teacher in most cases also–often before they begin to play. This is a very daunting fact, and we should all be humbled by it and working very hard in response to it. We cannot teach balance and posture without working on our own balance and posture every day. And we need good equipment to do this.

If you do have an adjustable bench for yourself, and if you really are sitting at the best height, then there is the question about requiring students to have the equipment at home. It goes without saying that students cannot possibly develop good balance and posture without using good seating seven days a week. But if we do not require that students have it, of course they will not have it. In order for us to require it, we have to make it available to new students before their first lesson. This means that we have to have reliable suppliers of adjustable benches and footrests and we have to keep an inventory of seating equipment so it will be there for new people. The longer a student is allowed to have lessons without good seating at home, the chance of that student’s ever getting it diminishes. And surely we must realize that giving parents a flyer from a person who makes footrests or adjustable benches in no way ensures their compliance with our wish that they purchase this equipment. We need to hand the equipment to them and insist they take it home. And then we have to follow up with frequent questions about whether or not they are faithfully using it and with a weekly critique of how they set up their own child for the lesson. There is no easy way to make this all happen. No teacher would go to all this trouble without fully understanding why seating, balance, and posture are so important to everything else.

Acquire the best available

Footrests. Equipment has improved since we began using it forty years ago. The old shelf-type footrest with sides that come up above the level of the feet is not acceptable. Sensei referred to this type of footrest as a “prison” for the feet, sympathizing with children who could not move naturally as they played or who tripped over the side panel while trying to get on and off the bench. A footrest with a larger surface area and without sides is required both in the studio and at home. Ask yourself whether or not you would use the shelf-type footrest at home if you were ten years old.

Adjustable benches. Neither teacher nor student should ever be sitting on the lowest setting of a bench, because the option to try a lower setting is then gone and the player begins to settle for what is available. Many young students, not only adults, need to sit lower than most benches go. Teachers are responsible to provide good seating for all their students, and I find that this means that we need two benches, one regular one and one whose legs have been cut down by about four inches. We need to advise parents to have the bench at home cut down when the student begins to require these lower settings. Otherwise, the poor student will end up with the wrong seating even if they started out with good equipment. In my experience, between 10 and 20% of students and teachers need lower chairs. And yes, this means that we teachers must bring two benches to our recitals when we have even one student who requires the low one.

Pedal extenders. When a student begins with all the right equipment, there is still one dangerous time along the way: when the use of the pedal is introduced. At this point, many students should still be using footrests, and will therefore need a device to extend the pedal. Again, the easy decision is to allow the student to play without any footrest, but I have experienced a few situations among my own students where the posture became completely unnatural when they tried to reach the pedal without having equipment that brought the pedal closer to them. The more effective our teaching, the more often we will have small students playing pieces that require the pedal. We all need to have equipment that extends the pedal and must require this also in the student’s home.

Use the equipment in all situations.

In regard to public performances, many of us enter students in recitals and events where the students of other teachers will also be performing, students who will not be using adjustable seating. We all know that the easy thing to do is to send our students to the piano like everyone else, with no help from us and no special equipment. It can feel embarrassing to draw attention to ourselves with our chairs, footrests, and pedal extenders. We can face ridicule by colleagues who think all this attention to seating is unnecessary, even foolish. I have actually heard of situations where the use of special seating equipment is forbidden. But we have to remain strong in our convictions about the importance of seating and take care of our students in every situation. We may decide never to have students perform with those from other studios, but students and parents can learn from being exposed to the wider world of music, and we can be doing important outreach by demonstrating what good equipment can do. In my area, although it has taken over ten years, a couple of community music schools and several traditional teachers have acquired adjustable chairs after having seen me use them at public events. (I wonder how long it will take for footrests and pedal extenders to catch on.)

All of this is not easy, is it? Sensei never said that teaching is easy. In fact, she always reminded us how hard it is. Once we know what students really need, it becomes our responsibility to take care of them. We do whatever we do for the sake of our students.

Sources for good seating equipment:

Chairs and benches:
CPS Imports,
547 E. Cathy Drive, Gilbert, AZ 85296, 480-329-5530, (The seat of the chair is not as wide as the bench, but the chair is generally more sturdy and stands up to heavy use. They offer an inexpensive artist bench and an adjustable footstool, with and without pedal extenders, as well.)

Teri Paradero,
88 Deer Creek Road, Pittsford, NY 14534, 585-383-1783, (a unique design of stacking footrests that allows adjustments in ¾-inch increments)

Greg Stockwell, MADE OF WOOD, 1212 Maplewood Street, Anaheim, CA 92805, 714-533-7556 (4-part stacking footrests of various heights)

Pedal Extender:
Michael Jacobson,
10 Dey Road, Plainsboro, NJ 08536, 609-897-7906, (Attaches to the piano and adjusts infinitely up and down. Not yet in wide production.)

Teri Paradero, 88 Deer Creek Road, Pittsford, NY 14534, 585-383-1783, (A 2-inch extender that attaches directly onto pedal. To be used with the incremental footrest.)

Members: Please tell us if you are aware of other reliable suppliers of seating equipment and we will share this information in this newsletter.

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Website

Upcoming Suzuki Piano Basics Workshops/Events

January 13-16, 2006
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Kathy Moser

February 2-4 2006
Salt Lake City, Utah
Workshop with Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Linda Tuttle

February 3-4, 2006
Phoenix, Arizona
Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Vicki Seil

February 6, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Vicki Merley

February 8-9, 2006
Tucson, Arizona
Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Ann Taylor

February 24-26, 2006
University of Redlands, California
Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Rae Kate Shen

March 10-13, 2006
Atlanta, Georgia
Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Leah Brammer

April 30, 2006
10-Piano Concert, Matsumoto, Japan
Contact Karen Hagberg

June 23-27, 2006
Orange County Suzuki Institute
Contact: Rae Kate Shen

July 24-27, 2006
Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians
Piano Workshop and 4-Piano Concert
University of Cambridge, England
Contact: Stephen Power
01223 264408

August 7-11, 2006
Sacramento Suzuki Piano Basics
Featuring Matsumoto teachers
Contact: Linda Nakagawa

To add or change items on this list and on the Suzuki Piano Basics website, contact Karen Hagberg
(, 585-244-0490).

--- Announcement to Members ---

Members whose dues are paid dues before February 1, 2006 will be included in the 2006 printed directory. Please send your $25 check made out to Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation to Linda Nakagawa, Treasurer, 242 River Acres Drive, Sacramento, CA 95831


Compact Discs

Dr. Haruko Kataoka performs Suzuki Piano Repertoire volume 1
Member Price: $14.00; Non-member $17.00
Dr. Haruko Kataoka performs Suzuki Piano Repertoire volume 2
Member Price: $14.00; Non-member: $17.00
Dr. Haruko Kataoka performs Suzuki Piano Repertoire volume 3
Member Price: $14.00; Non-member $17.00

Additional Discography

Seizo Azuma, piano, NOW AVAILABLE! La Campanella –F. Liszt “Favorites” La chasse, 4 Valses oubliees, no. 1/ Consolation No. 3/ Au bord d’une source,/ Ballade No. 2/Sposalizio/ La Campanella/ Sonetto 104 del Petrarca/ Ungarische Rhapsodie No. 2/Liebestraume, no. 3

Member Price: $17.00; Non-Member Price: $20.00

Mineo Hayashi, cello; Seizo Azuma, piano, Fun Classics, 12 Pieces:The Swan/Après un Rêve/Clair de Lune/Prayer from “Jewish Life”/Song of the Birds/ Paraphrase on a Japanese Folk tune Sakur, Sakura/ Song without Words in D major Op. 109/ Etude, Op. 8 No. 11, Bb minor/ Songs my Mother taught me Op. 55 no. 4/ Elegy Op. 24 / Adagio und Allegro in A-flat major Op. 70/ Polonaise Brilliante, Op. 3, C major

Member Price: $20.00; Non-Member Price: $25.00

Mineo Hayashi, cello, Six Suites for solo cello, by J. S. Bach
Member Price: $28.00; Non-Member Price: $30.00


April, 1996 Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert
Member Price: $100.00; Non-Member Price: $120.00

August 1999 Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert, Sacramento
Member Price: $50.00; Non-Member Price: $65.00

November 2000 Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert
Member Price: $100.00; Non-Member Price: $120.00

August 2001 Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert, Sacramento
Member Price: $50.00; Non-Member: $65.00

April, 2002 Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert
Member Price: $100.00; Non-Member Price: $120.00

August 2003 Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert, Sacramento
Member Price: $50.00; Non-Member: $65.00

November, 2003 Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert (DVD)
Member Price: $100.00; Non-Member: $120.00

NEW! Memorial Concert held in Matsumoto, July 28, 2004, featuring Seizo Azuma and other distinguished former students.
Member Price: $45.00

NEW! Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert, Sacramento 2005 (DVD)
Member Price: $50.00; Non-Member: $65.00


Dr. Haruko Kataoka Sensibility and Education, 2nd printing
Member Price: $12.00; Non-Member: $14.00

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki Nurtured by Love
Member Price: $13.00; Non-Member: $16.00

Dr. Haruko Kataoka Thoughts on the Suzuki Piano School
Member Price: $6.00; Non-Member: $8.00

Dr. Haruko Kataoka My Thoughts on Piano Technique
Member Price: $6.00; Non-Member: $8.00

Dr. Haruko Kataoka How to teach beginners
Member Price: $12.00; Non-Member: $14.00

Full color edition of Memorial Piano Basics Foundation Newsletter
Member Price: $5.00; Non-Member: $10.00

NEW ! Print of pencil portrait of Kataoka Sensei, 6”h x 4” w, drawn in Matsumoto in 1992. Drawn and donated by Huub de Leeuw. (Proceeds to benefit the Memorial Fund.)
Member Price: $20.00; Non-Member: $25.00

NEW! 10-Piano Poster: 1999,2001, 2003, 2005
Member Price: $10.00; Non-Member: $15.00

NEW! 10-Piano Poster: 2001 Autographed by Dr. Kataoka and Juri Kataoka
Member Price: $25.00; Non-Member: $30.00

NEW! 10-Piano Poster: 2003 Autographed by Dr. Kataoka
Member Price: $25.00; Non-Member: $30.00

To order, Sorry, we do not accept credit cards. Make check payable to:
Piano Basics Foundation
and send to:
Piano Basics Foundation
242 River Acres Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95831

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

To the Kataoka Sensei Memorial.
To the Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page.

First Online Edition: 31 January 2006
Last Revised: 9 March 2012