Vol. 12.1 January/February 2007

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 12.1
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 1, 2007

Ingredients: the Ability to Select the Best

By Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Suzuki Piano Newsletter
Vol.8 No.3, August 3, 1998
Translated by Chisa Aoki
Teri Paradero
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

When we think about preparing delicious food, the first most important thing is having the best ingredients. It is common knowledge. We hear about this important requirement even on television cooking shows. Ingredients must be the best, the freshest. Old, bruised, or dried up ingredients cannot be transformed into a wonderful meal even by the most skilled master chef.

Why is it, then, that we do not choose the most natural, fresh, and delicious tone when playing a piece on the piano? Tone is the basic ingredient when playing a piece, and yet everyone ignores the quality of their ingredients and seems to focus only on the tasks of learning notes and memorizing.

Let us research the most important ingredient: tone. In the case of food, we use our sense of taste to judge quality. With piano music, we use our sense of hearing to determine whether or not a tone is good (natural) or bad (unnatural). Every single day we must use our sense of hearing to develop the habit of listening to tone with concentration. Always listen, savoring with great care the tone that you make and the tone that others make. In doing this, we develop the ability to differentiate between the heartfelt, wonderful sound of music and the sound of a collision (in other words, bad tone).

A little advice at this point: to become proficient at playing the piano, we must nurture the habit of listening with great care. In order to develop our sense of taste for food, do we not eat delicious cuisine from many different sources? It is the same with the sense of hearing. First of all, listen to recordings of performances of the great masters. Search out really the best performances, in the same way you would search out fine restaurants, so you can become a person with the ability to choose really good, musical tone.

Humans are born with many potential abilities, but we must put in effort in order to develop them, otherwise they are useless to us. Our sense of hearing is one of these physical abilities. Practice listening with concentration every day, with your eyes closed and with a calm heart and mind, so that you will develop an ability that you can count on when you need it.

Without being able to listen, we cannot understand the quality of musical ingredients (the sound of music; musical tone), nor can we understand a performerís interpretation of a piece or their skillful technique. (Someone without a developed sense of taste cannot judge the skill of a chef.) The practice of listening must be developed very carefully and from the time one is a beginner or it cannot be learned. After the ears themselves are trained to listen something more happens: you begin listening intuitively with your heart and soul. As a result, you begin to be able to add feeling and power to your natural, good sound. It is the same with cooking.

The chef creates a wonderful meal by using the best ingredients along with the heartfelt desire to give people a wonderful experience with food they can savor. It is the same with music. Just as a chef exercises his or her culinary skill, we must gather good sound to be able to perform a piece expressively, from the bottom of our heart, so no matter who is listening (or eating) they come away being revived and lucid, able to face the next day with new vitality. Furthermore, children, who are living the most wonderful, impressionable time of their lives, carry their experiences with them until they die. They thrive on the best nourishment.

People inevitably tend to be impressed merely by the size and scope of a job and lose sight of the quality of ingredients or the way things are put together. We neglect to put thought and research on the first stages of an endeavor.

We have the joy of experiencing wonderful music. With gratitude, let us think about good tone.

What Is It Like to Go to Japan? Part 2

by Karen Hagberg

Those who can get a full nightís sleep on that first night in Japan (or on any night during the all-too-quick 16 days, for that matter) are the lucky ones. Coming from Eastern Standard Time, my day and night have been totally reversed. Although I fell asleep almost instantly every midnight, I woke up at around 3:30 a.m. and semi-dozed until 7 or so. This was my pattern for the duration.

In the morning, finally a shower in the strange little bathroom that could be viewed as an enormous shower stall, always separate from the toilet and the sink, with the drain in the floor and a hand-held shower next to the deep, square soaking tub.

I began feeling somewhat human again and was hungry for breakfast: miso soup, a boiled egg, toast, fruit, salad, and coffee. My friend Mitsuko went all out on that first morning, but most of the time I would be on my own after she left early for work.

There were rehearsals scheduled on that first day, and we visiting teachers had to establish our routine for getting to the rehearsal hall about five miles from town. Many were schooled in the bus route from their homestay and the details of purchasing tickets and in knowing when they had arrived at the Asama Cultural Center. Signs being all in Japanese, and bus drivers not speaking English, this was a challenge on the first trip. Some teachers, playing it safe, took taxis from the train station by showing the driver the name of the destination that they had been given in Japanese in their registration packets.

Photo by Rob Knickerbocker

Karen Hagberg on bicycle in Matsumoto, Japan

I borrowed Mitsukoís bicycle and braved the long, uphill trek to Asama Onsen. I was happy to be experiencing the biking lifestyle I had experienced in Japan fifteen years before, thankful for the exercise, given the long hours of observation every day, but, until I got used to it, frustrated with the one-speed bike, several inches too small. Getting to the rehearsal each day, up the long, grueling hill, was a challenge, but coming home every night, weary after hours of sitting, was a treat, coasting downhill with fresh air in my face, getting back three times faster than it took to get there. Great because by this time every night, I was very hungry.

Sitting all day every day watching rehearsals presents the challenge of learning from repetition. It is difficult to concentrate on the same thing happening over and over. American education does not utilize this kind of learning experience. It is easy to become distracted, as many of us do quite frequently. There are teachers sitting there doing other things or having conversations. Often a few teachers leave together to find a coffee shop, to purchase food at one of the two nearby convenience stores, or to do some souvenir shopping. Always a few, sitting up front, are trying their best simply to observe and to absorb the seemingly endless repetition which, if youíve been to these rehearsals before, seems so predictable. I often wonder how much of this needs to be experienced before we really learn from it? In the midst of this very gradual, long-term process, we find a sense of progress elusive. I have often asked myself what Iím doing there. Somehow, as if magically, the more we observe the more we learn and understand. The more we can listen. The more we can hear.

Every time, I come away being impressed with the work, the persistence, of repetition. Thereís a point where I stop and the Japanese teachers persist. Thatís the point beyond which I want to learn to go for the sake of my students. Weíre all there learning to be relentless, not to give up when we feel like it. Weíre learning, yet again, that success is not giving up. Will I learn this before I die? Will I be able to teach this to others? Iíll leave Japan this time trying yet again.

The students, as usual, are amazing. They respond to this repetition. They hear themselves improving, and a groundswell of music emerges even in pieces that seemed very dangerous at the beginning.

One week into our stay, before the rehearsal we were invited as a group to the gravesite of Kataoka Sensei. We met our hosts at the Kaikan, all feeling somber, so aware of our loss. We were driven to an enormous, picturesque cemetery, high above Matsumoto, with a spectacular view of the city below and the mountains looming in the distance, all decorated with cherry blossoms.

The Japanese teachers brought equipment with which to clean the memorial stones, and many brought flowers. Each teacher individually had the opportunity to offer a private tribute at the headstone. Late-April snow began falling, and I felt a renewed bond with the other teachers. With snow on the cherry blossoms, the cemetery was at once bleak and very beautiful.

With somber hearts we descended from the spot on the hill, happy to be in the heated cars again. The Japanese teachers treated all of us to a scrumptious lunch at a nearby western-style restaurant afterwards, followed by a too-short excursion to a 100-yen shop. Then off to the dayís rehearsals.

To be continued...


The Harmony Hall, Matsumoto, venue of the Japan 10-Piano Concert    (File photo)

Summer 2007 News

Louisville, Kentucky, June 4-8

In addition to many of the regular faculty at the University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Institute, Keiko Ogiwara and Keiko Kawamura from Matsumoto, Japan will teach both teachers and students. See upcoming events for contact information.

Irvine, California, June 10-14

A Suzuki Piano Basics Teacher Research Workshop will feature Keiko Ogiwara and Keiko Kawamura from Japan. See upcoming events for contact information.

Sacramento, California, August 3-18

Twenty two students from Japan will be performing in this summerís event with American students from around the country. All teachers are welcome to observe the rehearsals and the concert. See upcoming events for contact information.

Summer 2008 News

Cambridge, UK, June 29, 2008

Concerts in honor of Dr. Suzuki on the 10th anniversary of his death. Suzuki piano teachers from all over the world are invited to enter as many as three students (one from Books 1-3, one from books 4-6, and one from Book 7 and above). There will be two Steinway grands, so duets are welcome. To express interest, contact Stephen Power at Information will appear on the Suzuki Piano Cambridge website sometime next year (

Piano Basics Foundation Upcoming Workshops/Events

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 22-24, 2007
Salt Lake City, Utah

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Jan West

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 Beethovenís 2nd Piano Concerto)
Contact: Carole Mayers 610-354-0637
or Joan Krzywicki 215-836-1120

March 9-12, 2007

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Clare Sie

March 16-18, 2007
Laguna Niguel, California

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518

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

May 19-20, 2007
Laguna Niguel, California

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Rae Kate Shen
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518

June 4-8, 2007
Louisville, Kentucky

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

June 10-14, 2007
Irvine, California
Concordia University

Suzuki Piano Basics Teacher Research Workshop
with Keiko Ogiwara and Keiko Kawamura
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518

July 23-26, 2007
Cambridge, England

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

July 30-August 3, 2007
Saint Louis, Missouri

Suzuki Piano Basics Institute
with Bruce Boiney and Joan Krzywicki
Contact: Patty Eversole 314-837-1881
Registration information online at

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.

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Dues for 2007 Are Now Payable and Due

Please do not forget the various benefits of membership in this organization:

1. Support the ongoing work of promoting and preserving the work of Dr. Kataoka
2. Receive a hard copy of the newsletter with complete graphics
3. Receive a hard copy of the Membership Directory
4. Have ordering privileges (discounted prices and free postage) for Suzuki-Piano-related     materials
5. Be eligible for discounts at some Suzuki Piano Basics events
6. Receive preference for student participation at Suzuki Piano Basics events

Dues remain only $25/year. Please make your check out to Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation and send to Linda Nakagawa, Treasurer, 242 River Acres Drive, Sacramento CA 95831.

Change of Address:

Pam Smith
3530 Ashford Dunwoody Rd. NE #901
Atlanta, GA 30319

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

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

First Online Edition: 30 January 2007
Last Revised: 9 March 2012