Vol. 11.3 May/June 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 - Volume 11.3
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: June 20, 2006

Just Enjoy!

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Piano Newsletter
Vol.10 No.2, July 13, 2000
Translated by Mayumi Yunus
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Hard Copy Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

It is dangerous to say "Let's just enjoy!" to children as well as to adults, because whenever you use these words, people feel comfortable just hearing the words and they forget to try working hard. It is wrong to just enjoy practicing the piano or studying at school without any discipline. People can enjoy achievement after having worked hard. Children need to learn how to be patient and overcome difficulty with hard work. Adults must teach children this wisdom and then help them carry it out. Between overcoming the difficulty of achieving one goal and trying to set the next goal, children need to have some time to relax and energize themselves. However if people always have nothing but fun and "Just enjoy," they will become lazy.

People can energize themselves physically just as they eat. Teenagers, especially, can store a lot of energy. If they just have fun without learning the importance of hard work, they will have a lot of extra energy. They need to release this energy. They cannot keep so much energy in their body. If they do not have a good way to release their energy, they will use it in wrong ways, such as bullying other children at school or becoming involved in domestic violence. Parents have to help find places, especially for physically strong children, to release energy in a positive way. If parents teach them how to use energy for the right purpose from the time they are born, they will be able to balance fun and hard work. Parents have to help children to find a goal and then help them achieve it.

It is the same for studying the piano. It is not right to just play and have fun. Children must learn the pieces with fun, but after that, teachers must teach how to keep body balance, how to produce good tone, how to control the balance between the right hand and left hand, how to keep the correct rhythm through a piece, and how to read the composer's intention.

Teachers must teach with discipline and help children to use their energy in the proper way. Children will work hard to be able to achieve a goal if they have parents and teachers who require this from them. Parents and teachers must teach how to make an effort and how to work hard. When children can finish a concert with a great performance after all the hard work of practicing, they will be able to feel the deepest joy. This is no mere "enjoyment." It is hard-earned joy, requiring the expenditure of a great amount of energy, because practicing is very hard.

The teacher and the parents also must provide many opportunities for children to perform. Performing at a concert is such a great experience, especially after practicing hard. Children can feel excitement and also can use all the energy they have at concerts. If you want to raise great students or great children, you also have to work hard and realize the enormous responsibility you have.

The 2006 International 10 Piano Concert in Matsumoto, Japan:
A Parent's Perspective

by Nadia Ghent (mother of Alex Krolewski), Irvine California

Tucked into a corner backstage a half an hour before the first of the day's two 10-Piano Concerts in Matsumoto, Japan this April 30th, scanning all the entryways nervously for the arrival of my son, Alex Krolewski, with his Japanese host family, trying to stay out of the way of the 250 other children and their parents who seemed to be all rushing past me at the same time, I was struck with how similar this frenetic pre-concert chaos was to all the other piano concerts I had attended with Alex, but without the extra edge of anticipation that I thought would have accompanied this particular day: this is the International 10 Piano Concert! In Matsumoto, Japan! It takes place only every two years! I traveled 6,000 miles to get here! Perhaps it was the strangeness of not having to be responsible for Alex's arrival at Harmony Hall that morning, or of having to make sure that his hair was combed, tie properly tied, suit unrumpled-his Japanese host mother, Mrs. Higuchi was in charge of all that, and even of all his practicing and preparation for the previous two and a half weeks.

Alex arrived with plenty of time to spare, and his enormous grin and bubbling enthusiasm made me realize how excited and truly eager he was to perform Bach's Two Minuets from Book 4. I had attended the last two rehearsals, including the dress rehearsal the day before, and the Japanese teachers were still working out the details of the performance, explaining in long streams of Japanese, which although I had no idea exactly what the words meant, were perfectly clear in their intent that they were not happy, and I had become a little worried that things would not go well. But my fears were totally unfounded; Alex's confidence in the strength of the performance would be completely accurate.

From the ringing sound of the 6 Ecossaises in E-flat major by Beethoven which opened the program exactly on the dot of 10:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m., through the amazingly beautiful performances of Twinkle A and D and Mary Had a Little Lamb-so musical in their simplicity, not an errant accented beat in the wrong place, through the crystalline-clear chromatics in the last movement of the Kuhlau Sonatina Op. 55 #1, in Alex's piece, Bach's Two Minuets in which the exquisitely delicate pianissimos in the echo sections brought tears to my eyes, the athletic Gigue in perfect, 10-way simultaneous ensemble, the gorgeous slow movement of Mozart's Sonata in C major, K.545, with breath-taking ornaments inspired by Fredrich Gulda's recording, the comforting Brahms Waltzes in C-sharp major and A-flat major (the one we violinists know in B-flat major in Book 2!), the rousing Military March by Schubert, the apotheosis of transcendence in the Bach Sanctify Us by Thy Goodness from the Cantata #22, and the rousing flamenco fireworks in the last piece of the program, de Falla's First Spanish Dance-it was truly impossible to believe that all these pieces and the others on the program were being performed by ten people (and the duets by twenty-forty hands!). Closing my eyes, I could hear one voice, one unity of sound and heart. And I will never forget the sound of those ten pianos, each performer playing with the absolute best quality of each individual sound, combined to create a sonority that rang throughout Harmony Hall long after the final notes of the concert.

Of course, the effort that went into making this 14th International 10 Piano Concert, the first one after the untimely death of Dr. Kataoka, such a success was enormous, from the coordination of the Japanese and American teachers, the months and months of practicing even before the first rehearsal, thousands of hours of listening, all those miles driven back and forth to piano lessons. But one thing was absolutely clear: children can achieve extraordinarily high levels of musicality as long as expectations are always high and the steps leading up to the ability to achieve this musicality are logical and clearly defined.

There were, however, a few surprises-with the exception of several Japanese teachers who played in the most advanced pieces, all of the rest of the performers were children, and with kids, even in Japan, anything can happen. There were lots of smiles and waves to the audience among the youngest Twinklers, not exactly in keeping with the formal decorum of the occasion, and also considerable confusion as to when to leave the stage: some performers looked as if they were ready to stay onstage all day! The youngest child in Alex's host family, 3-year old Tatsuya, fell asleep during the dress rehearsal the day before the concert and missed his only chance to rehearse his bow. At the concert, the Japanese teacher in charge of the bowing children took no chances and led Tatsuya out holding firmly onto his hand. And in Alex's piece, Bach's Two Minuets from Book 4, one of the performers forgot to take the second repeat in the second Minuet and had an accidental solo, returning to the da capo of the first Minuet before everybody else. Thankfully, within two beats, this performer got right back on track. The two concerts and the sumptuous reception later in the day passed by too quickly, and way too soon it was time to pack our bags and depart from Matsumoto. Alex and I were both deeply honored to be able to be a part of this incredible experience, and we were profoundly moved by the generosity of the Japanese teachers, performers, parents, and especially the host families. In his two and a half weeks living with the Higuchi family, Alex truly got a chance to sample Japanese home life, and in my week's stay in Matsumoto, I was able to peek over his shoulder. Although my Japanese certainly did not improve, I truly feel as if my musical heart has expanded. The International 10 Piano Concert may take place in Japan, but the language we all share is music, understood by us all.
(Hard Copy Photo by Malinda Rawls: Dress rehearsal for the Bow, 10-Piano Concert, Matsumoto, April, 2006.)

10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto

by Alex Krolewski (age 13), Irvine, California (student of Mei Ihara)

In April I visited Matsumoto for the 10-Piano Concert, where I played Bach's Two Minuets from Book 4. As you can imagine, the 10-Piano Concert took a lot of preparation; I started learning my piece seven months earlier. After arriving in Japan, I had seven rehearsals of my piece together with the other nine pianists. These were not, however, the short practices I had expected, but rather long, intense rehearsals resembling a private lesson for ten pianos. At these rehearsals the Japanese teachers gave us many spots to practice; nearly every note of the piece was, at some point, practiced.

I felt deeply honored to be invited to this 10-Piano Concert in Japan. Though I have participated in two Sacramento 10-Piano Concerts, they did not come close to rivaling the Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert in their intensity or concentration, because I lived in Japan for two-and-a-half weeks leading up to the concert. This trip is not just about the piano, but also about being introduced to a new culture.

Japan, of course, is a very different place from America. This was my first trip to Japan. I stayed with the Higuchi family in Matsumoto. They had four kids: Sachiko, age 11, Akiko, age 9, Maiko, age 5, and Tatsuya, age 3, all of whom participated in the 10-Piano Concert, though Tatsuya was only doing the bow. This meant that there were five kids competing to practice the piano: the three Japanese girls, my roommate Rob, and myself. Scheduling practicing time was complicated!

For the first time, I was regularly eating real Japanese food. I liked it a lot, especially miso soup. In addition, we all went on sightseeing trips to Matsumoto Castle, Daioh Wasabi Farm, the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, and the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum (Japanese art from the 18th and 19th century); in addition, we went strawberry picking, and Rob and I went to Fujikyu Highlands Amusement Park along with all of the American students. These many cultural outings were all a lot of fun; also, I met and made friends with many of the students from around the United States and from Japan.

The Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert meant a lot to me, and I felt very honored to perform in it. It was amazing to perform and help produce such a great round sound to fill Harmony Hall. In addition, I felt it was amazing to watch and listen to some of the other pieces performed at the concert: the more advanced pieces, as well as the very high level of playing by the small children. All in all, the 10-Piano Concert was an excellent musical and cultural experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
(Hard Copy Photo by Malinda Rawls: Alex Krolewski with Japanese performer in rehearsal at the 10-Piano Concert, Matsumoto, April 2006. )

What Did You Find Surprising in Japan?

Observations of Students, Parents and Teachers

I was surprised by the electronic toilets with their many mysterious buttons, by the many vending machines all over the streets dispensing drinks, ice cream, and even cigarettes, and by the many bicycles without locks parked on the street. All the Japanese people treated me in a way that made me feel like royalty, and I hope to go back there some day.
Eliza Block, age 11, Tacoma, Washington (student of Jacqueline Block)

The most interesting thing in Japan, I would have to say, was the food, which has unusual combinations of sweet, salty and spicy. It was just different. Also, I thought that vending machines were all over the place. You can hardly go a few blocks without seeing a row of vending machines, serving soda, juice, cold and hot coffee, cold and hot tea, and bottled water. A third thing that I thought was interesting was their culture. I thought it was cool how we had to change into slippers in the house, and wear only socks on the tatami mats in bedrooms, etc.
Rob Knickerbocker, age 13, Rochester, New York (student of Karen Hagberg)

What I found most surprising in Japan was how I, in addition to most of the American students, prepared better than I thought I did for the rehearsals. When the Americans go to Japan, I think we all have in mind that we have to step up our level of playing and practicing, and even so, we are still expecting to be yelled at. Because we all were probably nervous and practiced a lot, this was not so, and we were not lectured or yelled at which was to me a big surprise.... but of course we were still told to practice.
Nicholas Butler, age 17, Sacramento, California (student of Linda Nakagawa)

The most surprising thing to us was the amazing generosity and hospitality of all those we met in Japan. Everyone was very concerned that we were comfortable, happy, and had plenty to eat. It seems that hospitality is very important to the Japanese people and we definitely benefited from this! The food was amazingly delicious!
Anne and Bob Knickerbocker (parents of Rob Knickerbocker), Rochester, NY

I was surprised once again by the ability of the Japanese teachers to keep such complete focus and concentration! Their energy levels and ability to give were very motivating! I would like to thank those wonderful teachers for taking my listening skills to another level. I was not surprised at the beauty of springtime in Japan. The sakura were omnipresent and totally lovely. My computer screen saver is now one of Malinda Rawl's pictures of cherry blossoms.
Christine Albro, teacher, Cary, North Carolina

Kataoka Sensei was not there at the rehearsal anymore. But what I feel is the teaching in Matsumoto was even better than ever. I think that is because of teachers' continued researching and studying with each other.
Mei Ihara, teacher, Orange, California

I am continually impressed with their ability to improve so much from rehearsal to rehearsal!
Linda Nakagawa, teacher, Sacramento, California

The most surprising thing about this, my 2nd trip to Matsumoto, was that I found myself noticing the ways we are all the same instead of the ways we are different.
Suzanne Dixon, teacher, Asheville, North Carolina

I heard the real sound of music in the 10-Piano Concert. I was wondering how they did that, how could they produce that kind of natural sound? Is there magic in Matsumoto? I observed and observed, I asked myself, I asked Linda Nakagawa, I asked the Japanese teachers. It the end, the answer that I got is that the teachers teach Suzuki Piano Basics at every lesson; the students practice basics, do many repetitions, and listen to their recordings every day.... Oops, I guess it isn't magic after all.
Clare Sie, teacher, Singapore

I was surprised how many pictures one person can take in a sixteen day period (Malinda Rawls, about 3,500, but who is counting?). I was amazed to discover at lunch one day that two American teenage students did not know that pickles in America are made from cucumbers (in Japan they are made from many kinds of vegetables). I am still in disbelief that one of the two students claims to have never eaten a cucumber before that day. I could relate much more, but will close with the observation that it was refreshing to be back in Japan, invigorating to become reacquainted with the piano sound and natural technique of the Matsumoto teachers.
Bruce Boiney, teacher, Louisville, Kentucky

It was surprising to find that, when asked for assistance, the Japanese people drop what they are doing and do everything possible to help out until all avenues are exhausted. Several times when my husband and I were asking directions, people would accompany us to our destinations. They would continue to watch us in train stations to be sure we took the right exit or got on the correct platform. If we were in the wrong place they would mysteriously appear and take us to the correct destination. Some people were watching so closely that they would offer us help before we had asked for it! And then, on parting, they would bow as if they were thanking us. Also I was impressed that our homestay host, a young student who had just been in her apartment in Matsumoto for only one month, and who had so little compared to our American standards, so graciously offered her home and hospitality to us and was so generous with her time and our needs.
Barbara Ruffalo, teacher, Saint Petersburg Beach, Florida

(Hard Copy Photos by Malinda Rawls: Vending machine, Matsumoto, 2003; Outside the rehearsal hall, 3-year-old Tasuya Higuchi in a martial arts pose, with his family’s guest, Rob Knickerbocer, listening to music in the background. Matsumoto, April, 2006; Meeting with Mayor Akira Sugenoya of Matsumoto, April 2006. Standing L to R: Ayako Fujiwara Sensei, Eliza Block, Emily Barrale, Andrew Loo, Rebecca Willett, Shravan Prasad, Alexander Smyth, Christine Albro, Ann Taylor, Malinda Rawls, Sydney Woods, and Keiko Ogiwara Sensei; American student Alexander Smyth in rehearsal, with his teacher, Leann Anderson, Matsumoto, April 2006; Barbara Ruffalo, Shannon Russo, Bruce Boiney at rehearsal for the Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert, April, 2006; Cherry blossoms , Matsumoto, April 2006; Visiting teachers paying tribute at Dr. Kataoka's gravesite, Matsumoto, April, 2006; Portrait of Dr.Kataoka displayed in her former studio at the Suzuki Institute in Matsumoto, April 2006; Hisayo Kubota Sensei at Dr. Kataoka's Monument, Matsumoto, April 2006; Matsumoto Castle, Castle, April 2006.)

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Website

Piano Basics Foundation Upcoming Workshops/Events

July 17-21, 2006
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

Southwest Suzuki Piano Institute
Contact: Cathy Hargrave at 972-412-8864

July 23-26, 2006
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA

Suzuki Piano Basics Summer Festival
Featuring Karen Hagberg
Contact: Jacki Block 253-759-7213

July 24-27, 2006
University of Cambridge, England

Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians
Piano Workshop and 4-Piano Concert
Contact: Stephen Power 01223 264408

August 7-11, 2006
Sacramento, California

Sacramento Suzuki Piano Basics
Teacher Research Workshop with Matsumoto teachers
Contact: Linda Nakagawa 916-422-2952

October 6-10, 2006
Redlands, California

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Bruce Boiney
Contact: Rae Kate Shen 909-794-9461

October 7-9, 2006
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Dawn Price-Flewellen 610-436-4422 (October 7-8)
or Jane Sanbuichi Guerin 215-848-2567 (October 9)

October 11-12, 2006
Tucson, Arizona

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Ann Taylor 520-881-5573

October 13-14, 2006
Phoenix, Arizona

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Vicki Seil 480-926-7804

October 16, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Vicki Merley 505-332-8726

October 19-21, 2006
Salt Lake City, Utah

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Nila Ledesma 801-942-5472 or

November 3-4, 2006
Duluth, Minnesota

Suzuki Festival featuring Bruce Boiney
Contact: Karen Sandy 218-724-0576

January 27-28, 2007
Rochester, New York

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Karen Hagberg 585-244-0490

March 3-6, 2007
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Suzuki Piano Basics Teacher Research Workshop
Hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Suzuki Association
(Scheduled to coincide with a performance by the legendary pianist
Martha Argerich with the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Beethoven's 2nd Piano Concerto)
Contact: Carole Mayers 610-354-0637
or Joan Krzywicki 215-836-1120

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

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

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

First Online Edition: 15 September 2006
Last Revised: 9 March 2012