Vol. 11.6 November/December 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.

Piano Basics Foundation News

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

Web Editors
Carol Wunderle - Volume 11.6
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: December 1, 2006

The Responsibility of Adults

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Suzuki Piano Newsletter
Vol.8 No.12, April 10, 1999
Translated by Haruko Sakakibara
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

Just now we held our tenth 10-Piano Concert on May 2nd. I am really relieved, but there are a couple of things on my mind that teachers need to consider.

A month ago, at the beginning of April, our rehearsals began in the Matsumoto Cultural Center. During this period of extreme patience and effort on the part of all the teachers, students, and parents, I noticed some things.

First, thanks to the hard working teachers who teach the important basics of how to play the piano throughout the year, I was very pleased to see how the level of the children’s technique has risen. Reading this may make you think that rehearsals must have been really easy, but this is not the case. Children are completely different from adults. They do not plan for success. In other words, they do not become serious at rehearsals like they do in a concert. Of course, they had memorized their pieces, but they had no desire to play the best they could. If they had been really bad at rehearsals, they might have realized the necessity of practicing, but in fact they were not particularly bad. And because there were ten pianists playing at once each individual player was not moved to be serious enough. This is why the instruction from the teachers at the rehearsals did not seem to sink in, and the assignments were not faithfully practiced at home between rehearsals.

Come to think of it, no matter how much their technique has improved, children are still children. Although they possess wonderful ability, they won’t even think about using it unless the adults around them pay particular attention. Thus, it is quite challenging to make them gradually become more and more focused and to understand that they have to listen really carefully so that no one person will ruin the effort of the other nine.

I think that children’s natural lack of focus is to their merit. Without their own intentions, they are receptive to all of the scolding and required practice. They need good adults around them who will continue to remind them that they must maintain their focus. Otherwise, they will just pass through the valuable time of childhood without using the treasure they have.

Another interesting point I noticed was how children showed completely different responses depending on different teachers’ requests in terms of their choice of expression, the use of words, the tone of voice, and in what manner they offered encouragement. This made me realize that we should never blame children when our goals are not accomplished. Adults truly must choose the very best words and manners to reach children’s hearts.

Every time the concert day arrives, I am so impressed by the seriousness of children. They perform wonderfully, as if they were totally different people from the people in the rehearsals. While waiting their turn backstage, they usually say they are very nervous. When they have done thorough preparation, nervousness at the performance helps them do the best job. I feel we adults should do our best to help children prepare for their performances so that they may experience the kind of joy that comes after doing their very best. Such a joyful experience will develop the confidence that will support all areas of their future lives.

We adults are given the responsibility to raise these wonderful children. Dr. Suzuki often said, “Children are not responsible.” He is right! We adults are the ones who are responsible. This simple fact again weighs heavily on my shoulders at the conclusion of this recent 10-Piano Concert.

Ken Wilburn: the Man Behind the Web Site

by Karen Hagberg, with Ken Wilburn

Many of you may wonder who is Ken Wilburn, the web editor of the Suzuki Piano Basics web site. Most of you have never met him. And yet we are all indebted to him for his tireless work over the past ten years editing this site that has become such a useful tool for our sharing and communication.

Ken Wilburn traveled extensively as the son of an Air Force Career officer. He developed a lifelong love of the piano and especially the music of J.S. Bach after his piano study with Johanna Schmid in Ulm, Germany in 1958-59.

After earning a BA at Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, NC in history and an MA in history at the University of South Carolina, Columbia (where he took piano classes at the USC Music School), he attended New College, Oxford, England where he began his life's study of Africa. His most memorable musical moment at Oxford was listening to the organ recital of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor during the 600th anniversary of the founding of his college, New College, at midnight in the college chapel, which was more like a small cathedral, and in which he married Carolyn Hudson Wilburn in 1977.

After returning from South Africa in 1978 and completing his studies, he became a professor of history at East Carolina University in 1983, which hosts both the Suzuki Piano Basics web site and the Suzuki-L listserv. East Carolina is especially renowned for being the professional home of the Hardy Distinguished Professor of Suzuki Pedagogy, violinist and Professor Joann Bath, who was the first person to bring the Suzuki method to eastern North Carolina and who founded the MA program in Suzuki Pedagogy at East Carolina.

Wilburn had heard about the Suzuki Method in the 1970s. By the time his daughter Shelly was six years old, he knew he wanted to be involved in her piano study. He soon discovered that the Suzuki Method provided him this opportunity. When he asked his colleague, Dr. Bath about a piano teacher, she recommended the newly arrived Gretchen Lindeblad (some Suzuki teachers may remember her as Gretchen Smith). She had spent a year in Matsumoto, Japan studying under Shinichi Suzuki and Haruko Kataoka in the early 1970s and had just started her studio in Greenville. On 12 October 1993 Suzuki Daughter and Suzuki Dad had their first studio lesson. Thriving, in the summer of 1996 Kenneth Wilburn and daughter Shelly traveled to the University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Basics Summer Institute. Dr. Haruko Kataoka instructed teachers and students alike. Dr. Wilburn was inspired by her teaching, returning to Greenville with renewed enthusiasm and vigor, recalling Dr. Suzuki’s words, “You only need to practice on the days you eat.

” By March 1995 Kenneth Wilburn had learned html and constructed and launched his own academic web site. In early 1997, knowing the lack of connectivity among Suzuki teachers and the great potential of online resources, Kenneth Wilburn had put together a web site of links for Gretchen Lindeblad’s studio, but there were few Suzuki-related web sites. Wanting to expand the meager list of links on the web site, he planned to ask Dr. Kataoka at the institute about Japanese Suzuki web sites on his return to Louisville that summer.

The conversation took place on about 12 June 1997 at the University of Louisville Institute after Shelly had her onstage lesson with Dr. Kataoka. With the help of Dr. Kataoka’s translator, Ken Matsuda,they met in the University of Louisville’s Music Library, where several computers were online. Ken pulled up his web page of some five links and asked Dr. Kataoka to recommend additional web sites. She looked, turned to Ken, and said, I want you to put my book, How to Teach Beginners, on your web site.

” Despite his suggestion that the book really would belong on one of the already-existing sites, Dr. Kataoka insisted that her book appear on his own web site. Ken did not understand at first, but soon discovered that she was having pedagogical differences with some people at the Suzuki Association of the Americas, the organization that established one of the first Suzuki-Method web sites. Realizing this, he took up Dr. Kataoka’s cause more fully. The expanded Suzuki Piano Basics web site and discussion listserv, Suzuki-L, are the results.

At the third and last Louisville Institute Shelly and Ken attended in 1998, he shared with Dr. Kataoka the major growth of the web site, including her book, and described it all somewhat clumsily as having been done for her. Without hesitation she corrected his posture and tone, and said, “Dr. Wilburn, you have done this for the children of the world!

In 1999 Dr. Kataoka graciously agreed to select a Kawai grand from Kawai’s Japanese factory and autographed it for Ken and his family. Now, during his son’s daily practices and at night when Dr. Kataoka’s Book 2 CD is playing, Dr. Haruko Kataoka remains close to their hearts and minds.

Kenneth Wilburn teaches History of Africa, History of the Middle East, and World Civilization in the Department of History, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, and serves history majors as the Director of Undergraduate Studies. He just returned from an exciting Summer Study Abroad Program to Ghana, West Africa with 8 students. He remains the Suzuki Dad of his son, Kenny. Shelly is now a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Kenneth Wilburn’s dream is revealed at the top of the Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation web site. Referring to Shinichi Suzuki, Haruko Kataoka, Joann Bath, and Gretchen Lindeblad, who symbolize Suzuki teachers worldwide, he writes:

May the beauty they have created for Suzuki families everywhere inspire and transform the world.

Congratulations, Ken for your wonderful work. We at Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation, along with the children of the world, thank you.


Our web editor Kenneth Wilburn with his children Shelly and Kenny, both Suzuki piano students of Gretchen Lindeblad.
Photo by Carolyn Wilburn

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Website

What Is It Like to Go to Japan? Part 1

by Karen Hagberg

Although the next 10-Piano Concert in Japan is not until the spring of 2008, it takes long-term planning. It is not too early to begin thinking about it.

I make a decision eight months in advance, to be among the Americans to attend the next 10-Piano Concert. This requires clearing two-and-a-half weeks in my teaching schedule and figuring out how to leave students with assignments designed to move them to practice hard in my absence (one hopes…). I also have to help my families understand that my going to Japan is for their benefit also, as some of them will think I’m taking a vacation and neglecting their children. I make sure my passport won’t expire before or during the trip. I begin to research flight arrangements to coincide my arrival at Narita Airport with the arrival of the other visiting teachers and students so we can board the charter bus up to Matsumoto together. My annual budget gets re-worked over and over to absorb the projected expenses (yes, the computer update can wait another year or two).

I’d like to bring a student. Not only do I have to consider who in the studio may want to go, but also who deserves to go and who is really qualified. I consider not only the student’s dedication to piano study, but also the ability to get along with people, overall maturity, and, most important, flexibility in unfamiliar situations. A love of eating fish and seaweed doesn’t hurt. Not every young person can handle the demands of long travel, prolonged rehearsals, and life in a Japanese home. In the past I have made the mistake of bringing a student who wasn’t up to the challenge, creating problems for the student, myself, and others. It is important to think of ourselves and our students as ambassadors and to choose accordingly.

The student’s family must also make an early commitment. The prolonged absence needs to be cleared with school authorities, and often we teachers are called upon to explain what this trip will contribute to the child’s education. Arrangements to make up missed work must be made, passports secured, plane tickets reserved.

As the time nears, I receive my student’s assignment, and then practice begins in earnest. It is not unusual for teachers to have many extra lessons with students who are preparing to perform in a 10-Piano Concert. Students who arrive in Japan fully prepared will have a much more enjoyable and successful experience than those who are not (and so will their teachers). Every week I check: Does the student have exemplary posture, and is she able to hold her arms above the keyboard? Are her fingers moving and grasping at the tip? Can she begin anywhere in the piece? Can she play any section hands alone? Can she play the piece slowly, or in rhythms, hands alone and together? Is the tempo steady? Does she understand “Down/Up” in her body? How good is her legato? How much independence is there in her hands? How wide is her dynamic range? How musical is her tone? Is every single note and fingering correct?

Meanwhile, I try to learn everything I can about what is going on in Japan. I go on the internet to catch up on news and to see what the weather might be in Matsumoto. Teachers and students receive homestay assignments and begin to communicate with our hosts, usually by email. We shop for gifts, always surprised and dismayed to see how difficult it is to find products actually produced in the United States anymore. (Most of us want to avoid the irony of bringing a gift all the way from here that had already been shipped from an Asian country where it was made.) We decide how we will communicate with people at home: cell phone? email? phone card?

At this point, we have to consider packing, a daunting task when going to a foreign place for such a long time, weighed down with gifts, scores, cameras, iPods, cell phones, laptops, etc., all the while knowing that we’ll regret taking either more than we need or less than we need. The students have to pack concert attire, usually requiring a separate garment bag of its own. We check the airline baggage regulations, wanting to avoid the extra cost of overweight bags or too many bags.

The travel day seems to come all too quickly. Quite suddenly I find myself in a local airport at some ungodly hour in the early morning with a drowsy teenager and a pair of worried-looking parents delivering a constant stream of last-minute reminders. I try to reassure them that going halfway around the world is a routine trip for many people who do it all the time, stifling my own apprehensions to make them feel better about saying good-bye to their baby.

And then we’re off. Some people are lucky enough to live in a city that has direct flights to Japan, but we had to make the one-and-a-half-hour flight from Rochester to Chicago and then wait five hours for the plane to Tokyo. In Chicago, we had finally waked up and were hungry, so we found the food court. (The truth is, I had already eaten a big breakfast in Rochester and ate again in Chicago simply to fill time.) But what to do for the other four-and-a-half hours? Hmm. We grew to know every corner of United Airlines’ C Concourse. How many times can one browse in the same souvenir shop? How many the New Yorkers I never have time to read at home, although they added considerably to the weight of my backpack.

The waiting area for the Japan flight begins to fill up with a variety of people from all over the world. Announcements are made in English and Japanese. We’re beginning to feel as if we’re halfway there, and haven’t even gotten on the plane. But we come to learn this is truly wishful thinking, for there is nothing quite like a 13-and-a-half-hour plane flight, during which there is time for the serving of two full meals and a snack and the watching of four or five full-length movies. The entire crew, by law none of whom are allowed to work that long, changes mid-flight.

The announcements are still bi-lingual. The snack is instant Japanese noodles. The beverage service offers green tea and sake. The chicken has teriyaki sauce on it with rice on the side. Chopsticks appear alongside the plastic forks and spoons. Surely, we are getting there. But this flight seems truly endless. We cross the International Date Line and it is now tomorrow. The time in Tokyo is thirteen hours later than Eastern Standard Time.

Effectively, we travel all day on Thursday and into the wee hours of Friday morning and end up arriving in the middle of the afternoon on Friday. (This may seem logical enough when traveling to Japan. The mind-bending aspect of crossing the International Date Line is on the return trip, when the plane arrives in the United States before it left Japan.)

When we finally land, we look as disheveled as the interior of the cabin that is now strewn with blankets, pillows, newspapers, and, despite the many tours of flight attendants with big garbage bags, all kinds of trash. We all must be thinking the same thing: “I wish I didn’t have to meet the other Americans and the Japanese teachers in this condition. I must look like hell!

But it takes more time before we see any familiar faces. There is a very long walk from the gate to a winding passport control line where we show passports and the immigration form we had to fill out on the plane. Then we retrieve our luggage from the carousel downstairs and bring it all through customs.

Now we’re ready to meet our public. We drag all our things through a set of big doors, and on the other side are people waiting, many of whom are holding up signs for arriving strangers. We were among the last of our group to land this time, so most of the other folks who arrived in Terminal 2, teachers and students from California, Arizona, and Washington state, had been there for some time. A few of them look maddeningly fresh and perky. Most had already changed their dollars into yen and had poked around the airport a bit. We changed our money, bought a green tea ice cream cone, and felt we were finally in Japan.

Once all assembled, we dragged our bags outside through a cold drizzle to our charter bus about a hundred yards away from the terminal. There was room to spread out on the bus and we did. Although hard to face the 5-hour bus ride, exhausted, few slept while it was still light outside. We chose, rather, to look at the panorama of Japan through the bus windows, the fields and woods near the airport, the approach of Tokyo after nearly two hours in heavy traffic, with all its neon glitz (more signs in English than you would expect), its maze of highways, its style-less buildings, its wide rivers and countless bridges, its incessant traffic with unfamiliar vehicles (including humorously-tiny trucks, Toyota models we do not see at home, and, could it be, are the Japanese now driving SUV’s?), and finally, just before nightfall, the looming mountains, toward which we are heading. We stopped at a couple rest stops, there being no toilet facilities on our bus, and thankfully discover that there is usually at least one western toilet in a public restroom these days. Too tired to be really hungry, we nevertheless tried various snack foods at these places and drank cold green tea from plastic bottles. On the bus we sampled bags and boxes of odd goodies people had purchased for all to try. Still passing time. Some students are fast asleep. At least one has motion sickness and holds a plastic bag at the ready. I think I dozed a bit. The air turns cold. Outside now there are mountains everywhere, and forests, interspersed with tiny towns and villages. Finally the large city of Matsumoto appears as a broad ray of light in the distance. On the outskirts, we pull into a bus parking area and are met by carloads of homestay hosts waiting to be matched up with their guests. In some cases, strangers are meeting for the first time; in others it is a reunion, with lots of squeals and hugs. My friend Mitsuko is there to pick me up. We are two of the squealers and huggers. It is around 11 p.m. on Friday by now. Our brave and weary students pair up and go off into the night with strangers, some of whom speak little or no English. For the first time, most of these American kids will experience driving on the left in intolerably overheated automobiles. Several of them are facing another hour or more of travel.

When I get to Mitsuko’s apartment about 15 minutes later she asks me if I’m hungry. I tried to think about how many meals I had consumed by now on that interminable day. No, I’m definitely not hungry. No, I don’t want to take a bath or a shower even. All I want to do is go to bed, and mercifully I fall right to sleep and sleep until morning. I’d been traveling more than thirty hours.


Narita Airport - File photo


Charter bus, Matsumoto - Photo by Colin Davison


On the bus from Matsumoto to Narita Airport, Japan 10-Piano Concert April 2006.
Photo By Rob Knickerbocker


Media Alert: YouTube
Teachers, if you have not yet discovered the YouTube website at, please check it out for video performances of all your favorite pianists. This site is a fabulous resource, where you may watch performances not only of great pianists, but of poor ones as well. It is great research to watch and listen to the same piece played by many different performers.

One caveat: this is a catch-all web site, where people send in any video they please. Not all the material is something you would want to watch, and much of it is definitely not what you would want children to watch. So do not recommend it to students’ parents without this caution. Those who are computer literate may download individual videos for viewing offline.


To all Workshop Directors:
The Japanese teachers have been receiving requests to teach at workshops in the United States. They are willing to come in the summer for teaching, and have asked me to collect and coordinate the various invitations and to arrange their annual itinerary in the same way as I have coordinated the American group going to Japan for the 10-Piano Concert. Please contact me if you want to arrange such an event.

Karen Hagberg, 585-244-0490

Piano Basics Foundation Upcoming Workshops/Events

January 12-16, 2007
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Carole Mayers 610-354-0637

January 27-28, 2007
Rochester, New York

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

February 9-10, 2007
Phoenix, Arizona

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Vicki Seil 480-9267804

February 13-14, 2007
Tucson, Arizona

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

February 15-16, 2007
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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

February 17-18, 2007
Omaha, Nebraska

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Pam Fusselman 402-891-2397

February 23-25, 2007
Redlands, California

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Rae Kate Shen 909-794-9461

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

March 23-25, 2007
Atlanta, Georgia

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Robin Blankenship 770-426-4967

April 20-22, 2007
Reston, Virginia

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Gretel von Pischke 703-860-5654

June 4-8, 2007
Louisville, Kentucky

University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Institute
Contact: Bruce Boiney 502-896-0416

July 23-26, 2007
Cambridge, England

Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians Summer Workshops 2007
Contact Betty & Stephen Power (01223) 264408

August 18, 2007
Sacramento, California

Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert
Inquire before December 1 for student participation
Contact: Linda Nakagawa 916-422-2952

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: 28 January 2007
Last Revised: 9 March 2012