Vol. 12.6 November/December 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 12.6
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: November 30, 2007


By Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Suzuki Piano Newsletter
No.4, September 16, 1991
Translated by Chisa Aoki and
Teri Paradero
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

I always dreamt that if I should become a mother, my children would learn to play piano or violin. I imagined how delighted I would be hearing them perform when they became accomplished. They would also learn to ski and climb mountains. How wonderful it would be to enjoy the holidays together in nature. I imagined too having children who did very well in school without complaining about studying.

When I finally had children, however, I discovered that harsh reality is not quite the same as my dreams. Although I felt I put in a lot of effort despite my workload, I was not able to devote the kind of time necessary to teach them all the things I had imagined. Facing the truth of my situation, I wondered what would be the most important ability one would need to become a valuable member of society.

I concluded that this one most important ability is having good manners: to be able to greet properly, i.e., “Good morning,” “Goodnight,” “Hello,” “Goodbye;” when someone treats you with kindness or when receiving a gift, “Thank you;” when you make a mistake or when you have wronged someone to be able to apologize immediately, “I’m sorry,” or “Pardon me.”

Manners are very important in society where many different types of personalities gather to live together in close proximity. If people live heartlessly, doing and saying whatever they please, the world would not run smoothly. Through the use of manners, people accept one another and demonstrate respect. Manners serve as the cushions with which society functions smoothly.

I used to also repeat over and over: “People who think only of themselves are human trash;” “When you receive something, share it with those around you;” and “It’s not all about whether you get good or bad grades in school, please be kind-hearted and considerate.”

As 10 years, then 20 years passed by, when my son was living alone as a college student in Tokyo, I started being concerned all of a sudden. I said to him “Please don’t ever forget “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.” He replied, “You know, there isn’t anyone who says they’re sorry like I do, if you go around saying you’re sorry so easily these days, you can lose out!” Though I was startled by his feisty reply, I was happy to know that what I had taught him was still alive and well in him.

A problem occurred when my daughter was in the final term in sixth grade. It was the coldest time in the winter (for several days the temperature was below -10º C). Every morning she woke up and sighed, “Ohhh, we have outdoor gym class! You know how cold it is?” She whined about how one could freeze to death, yet they would have to be outside with just one layer of gym clothing for a whole hour. Eventually, she came down with a fever. She was home from school for a week, but her fever had not subsided. So I went to her school to speak to her homeroom teacher and I explained her situation. When I went back home to tell my daughter, she was furious with me and I was reprimanded, “Mama, I’m not the only one, you know. All my friends are saying they are freezing to death, too. How could I be the only one staying indoors!?!? Don’t you always say so yourself that people who think only of themselves are human trash? There’s absolutely no way I’m going to be the only person staying in the classroom.” This was another incident that reflected the upbringing I had tried so hard to provide.

Lately, watching a securities fraud scandal reported in the media, I can’t help but feel like I’m watching a bunch of people with no morals whatsoever. The prevailing attitude is that if it is financially profitable for themselves, it doesn’t matter how it affects others. When a newscaster commented, “We must insist on moral behavior from them…” a guest speaker, a college professor, responded, “That is not possible, they do not possess any morals…”

After all, it is like basics in piano, to acquire human morals they must be taught faithfully and properly to children by their parents at a very young age.


By Linda Nakagawa

There seems to be a concern among Piano Basics Foundation members that the organization is not doing enough to recruit teachers. There are just not enough Piano Basics teachers! I have heard this complaint for about 20 years. I have voiced it myself from time to time. But, because of Dr. Kataoka’s passing in 2004, I am taking the concern more seriously and more deeply to heart.

I want to share some of my thoughts and opin-ions about this subject. I believe that everyone has a personality and character unique only to that one individual. So, what I am about to share has nothing to do with anyone else, it has only to do with my own perception and my own outlook about Piano Basics Foundation as an organization, and my own knowledge about Dr. Kataoka’s method of teaching.

In the beginning I taught traditionally and was very active in our local MTNA, where I looked for better ways to help my students, but didn’t find them. I met with a few local Suzuki piano teachers through the prodding of a Suzuki violin teacher whose students I accompanied, and I attended my first Suzuki Institute to study the basic philosophy and Book 1. Everything was new and very interesting. I liked the ideas, and I read Dr. Suzuki’s books with an open heart. I thought to myself, “This is the way I want to teach.” The next year I attended my second Institute to study Book 2. The words spoken from many of the teachers were very interesting, but I saw no real difference between the Suzuki Method and traditional methods. Don’t all teachers, Suzuki and traditional, want to have good students and learn how to help them? I have to admit that I was a little disenchanted.

The following year, in 1985, just by chance, I went to a workshop where Dr. Kataoka was teaching. I observed her lessons with students and her lessons with teachers. I myself had a lesson. I listened to her lectures. I was mesmerized. I thought to myself, “Oh, so this is the Suzuki Method!”

After my lesson, I realized that my ability was very poor. My body was too stiff. But what was most disheartening was the fact that when I returned home to my students, I saw the same problems in them. All of them! I was determined to change, but I had to think very deeply about “how” I was going to go about the change. I came to realize that I could not change them without changing myself.

I went to every workshop and to Matsumoto so that I could have lessons with Dr. Kataoka. It is difficult to analyze my studies and pinpoint which lesson, which workshop, which students and teachers made pivotal impressions. I learned from all of them. I know that I bring a little something from all of them to my own lessons when I teach. I strongly feel that to become a good Suzuki Piano Basics teacher you have to observe a good teacher. I chose Dr. Kataoka as my teacher. She never failed me.

Time after time, I would attend her workshop and come home and do my best teaching, seeing results right away. As the days and the weeks went by, however, I could feel the strength I received from her fade. Gradually, I would go back to what was most comfortable for me. There were many times when I would realize that something was not quite right with my teaching. Without verbalizing anything directly to her, my questions were always answered at the next workshop just by watching her teach. I am most grateful for finding the one person to help me to become a better teacher for my students. Some people might call me a “sheep,” but I know that is not the case. I spent many years looking for a person who could help me, and I was not about to look for something else before I learned everything I could from this very special person.

Unfortunately, she left before I learned what I needed to learn. But fortunately, there is a small group of teachers in Matsumoto who have studied with her for a very long time. Many of the young teachers were students of Dr. Kataoka from early childhood. Even though they studied with Dr. Kataoka, they realize that they have much more to learn to become even better teachers for their students. Above all, I feel they have the desire for us also to become better teachers and are willing to help, if we truly want them. And because of this, there truly is hope for the future of Piano Basics teaching.

I understand the need to have more teachers. Many of us are overworked. However, I also believe that in order to become a good Piano Basics teacher, one has to have a strong desire and, above all, patience. No one can dispute the fact that children are wonderful. No one can dispute the fact that everyone desires the best for the children, but sometimes things take time. Words, lectures, knowledge and understanding are only part of the picture. We have to work hard to change our own bodies to become more natural if we want our students to become better. The truth is in our students. Several years ago, my students participated in a local Suzuki recital and the parents of one of my students said, “Linda, if I knew nothing about the Suzuki Method and I heard this recital, I would not want my child to learn the Suzuki Method.” None of the students were developed well enough to play their piece properly.

As our students become better and more natural, and their ability develops so they are able to produce a more beautiful, natural musical tone, other teachers may inquire and become curious about how we are able to develop students in this way. But this too takes time. As recently as seven years ago, a young teacher came to our local recital and said that she wanted her students to learn to play like these students. This young teacher came to our research group but was unwilling to change her technique. She did not see any flaws in her ability to play. Therefore, she did not continue with us. I believe very strongly that prospective teachers have to be willing to change. That is the essence of Suzuki Method. Our students are a mirror image of ourselves. No matter how much we talk to our students, what they finally acquire is the ability of the teacher. That is why we must work to develop our abilities to a higher level. Teaching Dr. Kataoka’s way is very humbling, and at the same time very rewarding.

I believe that every teacher has to take it upon him- or herself to become better. In my humble opinion the best way to do this is to study with the Matsumoto teachers; just as previously the best way was to study with Dr. Kataoka herself. I remember thinking what an amazing way to learn how to teach. Unselfishly, Dr. Kataoka shared everything with all of us in the audience. It was ours for the taking! Yes, things were a little easier in those days. If a new teacher came to me to inquire about the Suzuki Piano Method, all I had to do was tell them that they needed to go to Dr. Kataoka’s workshop.

I would like to challenge the idea that Piano Basics Foundation, as an organization should do more to recruit new teachers. On every newsletter our mission statement is written: 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. However, the organization cannot force people to hold certain kinds of workshops, nor can it force people to attend, any more than it can force people to change their way of thinking. There were many teachers studying with Dr. Kataoka who, for one reason or another, decided to go in a different direction. Education cannot be forced. Learning and education are personal, individual pursuits.

I feel that the best scenario for recruiting new Piano Basics teachers starts at the grass roots level. In other words, when people hear our students, if their ability is being properly developed, another teacher may become curious as to how a teacher could have so many good students. At that time, the Piano Basics teacher would encourage the curious teacher to observe lessons, sit in on a research group (it only takes two to make a research group), and take lessons with the experienced Piano Basics teacher. The next step then would be to encourage the new teacher to have a lesson with a Matsumoto teacher during a workshop here in the states or to travel to Matsumoto to study. I believe this is similar to the way things happened while Dr. Kataoka was doing workshops. I think it is a very natural way. The process is slow. It is a mistake to think that one can learn how to teach the way Dr. Kataoka taught by reading a book or by going to one or even several workshops.

I think it is very important to be truthful with prospective teachers. Learning is ongoing. We must continue to teach. This is how we learn. We learn through teaching our students; the knowledge that we acquire can only be learned through teaching. Students are not robots, they are live individuals, and how we learn to teach the Basics to all the unique students is the essence of our teaching. In the Piano Basics world there is no such thing as a “consultant.” We learn from our students. We learn from the great professional pianists. We learn from observing the Matsumoto teachers who have much more experience than any of us American teachers. We learn from observing the 10-Piano Concert rehearsals.

Dr. Kataoka told me many times that it is more important to have a small number of teachers working very hard to study and teach the Basics, teachers who are very diligent, serious, and dedicated for the benefit of the children, than simply to have large numbers of teachers.

Dr. Kataoka lived what she preached. She continued to take on beginning students. She never stopped teaching the young teachers in Matsumoto. She never stopped teaching the students and teachers in America. This is how she shared her knowledge and experience. She was a living example of how to teach the Basics. This was the best way she could help us learn how to become better teachers. The reality of teaching is that we all teach in the way we we’ve been taught. Words can inspire only to a certain extent. Suzuki Piano Basics is alive, and can grow only by putting it into practice as daily teaching. Piano Basics Foundation as an organization can only disseminate information to its members. It is the membership that must take it upon themselves to become better teachers in order to attract prospective teachers. The local teacher can nurture this new prospective teacher and guide her/him to the larger stage, a national workshop with the Matsumoto teachers. This is how we can develop dedicated teachers.

My only concern is are we, am I, up to the challenge?


Linda Nakagawa at the conclusion of the Sacramento
International Suzuki Piano Basics 10-Piano Concert at the Sacramento
Community Center Theatre, August 18, 2007. After brief remarks,
Linda presented gifts and flowers to the four Japanese teachers
who directed the last two weeks of rehearsal. Photo by Kyle Kumasaki

Suzuki Piano Basics Video Archive Ready to Proceed

There is now a release form available for videos that teachers would like to contribute to the online video archive of Dr. Kataoka’s lessons on the Suzuki Piano Basics web site. The form may be downloaded from the web site: Students and/or parents need not fill out release forms for the videos to be posted, but it is best if they do.

Meanwhile, please identify your videos with the following information: Date, Place, Student’s name & age, Name of home teacher, title of piece being studied and submit this information with your videos. Videos may be submitted in any format. They will not be returned. The only information that will appear online is the date of the lesson. Other information will be kept as an historic record, but will not be available to the public. The archive will include student lessons only. No teacher lessons should be submitted.

The archive will begin posting lessons with Dr. Kataoka arranged by piece and date. Dr. Kataoka’s speeches may also be submitted, although it may take time for these to be subtitled if the interpreter’s voice is not audible.

We hope many of you will take the trouble to submit your videos. The more we have, the better this tool will be for our mutual research.

Change of address and phone number:

Teri Paradero
19 Taylor Road
Honeoye Falls, NY 14472

What Is It Like to Go to Japan? Part 3

by Karen Hagberg

The 10-Piano Concert itself is an amazing production. Just two days before the performance, the stage at Harmony Hall is filled with ten nine-foot concert grand pianos, most of which have been brought from the Kawai factory in Hamamatsu by cadre of movers and technicians. The technicians work overtime tackling the enormous task of tuning the pianos all together before the dress rehearsal on the day before the concert.

Meanwhile, the teachers have arranged the move of the seating equipment (chairs and footrests for 20 students, since a few 4-hand pieces are on the program) and the paperwork involved in the organization of the concert (scores, flow charts, sched-ules, lists) from the rehearsal room to the performance hall. Volunteer mothers are ready to go into action over the weekend. Some work the lobby of the hall taking tickets, passing out programs and selling all sorts of souvenirs that have been manufactured for the event (t-shirts, tote bags, music folders, key chains, etc.); some act as ushers at the doors of the auditorium; some help decorate the stage with pots and pots of flowing plants and distribute these at the end of the final performance; some are designated to line up groups of performers backstage and to give their appearance a final check; some serve lunch to visiting teachers, staff teachers, and performers all in separate rooms; and some are assigned to the assembly area, a large gymnasium-type room with rows of bleachers and a large screen showing children’s videos, where performers will hang out before they are called backstage. This last group of volunteers needs to keep track of over 250 performers of all ages for many hours at a time during the day of the dress rehearsal and also on the day of the concert, which is performed twice at 10:30 A.M. and 1:30 P.M. Some of these mothers have also volunteered to house visiting students, which means that for over two weeks they have managed not only to host two foreigners in their homes, but have managed to drive these visitors and their own children to the many rehearsals over that period, often having to return for unscheduled sessions when pieces need more work, this, in addition to dealing with the inevitable daily problems that arise because of cultural differences and misunderstandings. The host mothers and the volunteers during the dress rehearsal and concert have also attended committee meetings for many months before the event as well as last-minute get-togethers to check final details. By the time of the concert, they do their work as cogs in a well-oiled machine. They can take care of any eventuality.

Backstage, the floor is marked with several dif-ferent lines of numbers, on which performers will assemble, moving from one to the next until they are the next group to perform. There is a large program posted on the wall, each piece crossed off as it is played. The volunteer mothers have their own lists of each child in every piece and which piano they will play. The lines of stu-dents, who gather behind a volunteer with a large sign saying the name of their piece, are checked and checked again and again for accuracy and for their appearance (Is the tie straight? Is the bow tied? Is the hair in place?).

Stagehands, consisting of young teacher trainees and some of the visiting American teachers, are each assigned a piano. It is their job to set the adjustable chairs and footrests between pieces. They have been developing a chart of the settings throughout the rehearsals, and make final adjustments at the dress rehearsal when students are all wearing the shoes they will wear at the concert and are playing the actual piano assigned to them. The stage hands have practiced placing the chairs and footrests in their optimum positions, not only the pre-determined height of each, which keeps changing right up to the dress rehearsal (after all, these are growing children), but also the best distance from the piano keyboard and precise centering. The 4-hand pieces are especially difficult to set up and break down, with ten additional chairs and footrests to bring on and off stage. Additional helpers are at the ready before and after those pieces, which are not performed together, but interspersed throughout the program, requiring this complicated maneuvering three or four times during each performance.

In addition to setting the chairs and footrests, the stage hands, along with the Kawai crew, move the pianos slightly several times during the concert. Spots on the floor have been marked with colored tape for each of these moves, which are determined during the dress rehearsal. Optimum piano placement is essential for the performers to be able to hear one another and for the sound to project best into the hall. As the pieces advance, the requirements change. Stage hands practice performing all these moves as quickly and as unobtrusively as possible.

A professional camera crew with banks of equipment backstage sets up during the dress rehearsal and begins testing out its camera angles and sound settings. They tape down yards and yards of cable. Backstage technicians listen through headphones as they control the camera shots they view through several monitors.

Various VIP’s are there the day of the concert: the mayor of Matsumoto, who always delivers a speech; an official from UNICEF, who accepts the large donation generated by the concert; the television personality who introduces us visiting teachers and the performers and pieces throughout the program. Sadly missing are Dr. Suzuki who, in recent years, sat in the audience, and Mrs. Suzuki, who held forth in a special room backstage filled with flowers and gourmet food where she would greet us foreign teachers and thank us for coming. The absence of Kataoka Sensei is sorely felt, but her spirit is alive and strong in all the proceedings. Her not being there makes everyone else more diligent, it seems. This last concert was a testament to how well she prepared her trainees and how well they, in turn, continue to educate themselves.

The children, even the youngest first-time performers, go about their work with utmost seriousness and discipline. It is always touching to see them trying so hard to do their best. At the end of each concert all the performers come onstage for their final bows, and the audience applauds with genuine enthusiasm. The smiles on the children’s faces reflect great pride, accomplishment, and relief. Energy remains high between the two concerts, when we all eat lunch and get ready to do it all over again, but at the end of the second concert, all the teachers, volunteers, camera crew, and piano movers swiftly clear the building of all the instruments, recording equipment, chairs, footrests, paperwork, food service items, concession souvenirs, programs, signs, and trash associated with the event. It doesn’t take long before one would never know the 10-Piano Concert had just happened there. Meanwhile, performers, families, and visiting teachers and students are greeting one another backstage, madly shooting photos before the performers change into street clothes.

A wonderful dinner party is held then in Matsumoto’s grandest hotel for all the host families and the foreign teachers and students. Many speeches are given expressing gratitude from all sides for the enormous effort on the part of so many people. We leave this event weary from the long day’s activities, but must return home to our final packing, since the bus to the airport leaves at 7 a.m. on the following morning.

The scene at the bus terminal is always unexpectedly poignant. Japanese people express deep emotion when saying farewell, and it is not unusual to see many host mothers and their children in tears as their guests board the busses. This always prompts tears also on the part of the departing guests, accompanied by throwing of kisses and waving goodbye until the busses are well out of sight of the families standing there in the early-morning chill. Most of us have been given food for our journey along with other last-minute gifts. As the busses pull away, it is difficult to imagine all that has happened in the past twenty-four hours.

The trip home is the reverse of the trip to Japan, though it always mercifully seems shorter for some reason. Perhaps this is because we arrive home, now having crossed the date line in the other direction, at about the same time we left. Psychologically it feels as if we are coming home in a time capsule. The food service on the plane prepares us for life in the United States, and by now, we’re all happy to be going back to our familiar surroundings, weary from excitement and travel, having had an experience we’ll never forget.

(Note: The Sacramento 10-Piano Concert is a com-parable event, and teachers are encouraged to get personally involved in these concerts by going to Sacramento before making the trip to Japan and by observing on their own before applying to bring a student.)


Karen Hagberg                          Photo by Dorothy Drake

Piano Basics Foundation Upcoming Workshops/Events

January 18-21, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Leah Brammer
Contact: Carole Mayers 610-354-0637

February 15-16, 2008
Phoenix, Arizona

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

February 19-20, 2008
Tucson, Arizona

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

March 7-9, 2008
Cary, North Carolina

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Christine Albro 919-460-8233

March 27-30, 2008
Atlanta, Georgia

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Joslyn McGuire 404-524-5880

April 27, 2008
Matsumoto, Japan

10-Piano Concert
Contact: Karen Hagberg 585-244-0490

June 3-7, 2008
Louisville, Kentucky

University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Institute
Contact: Bruce Boiney 502-241-5921

June 9-13, 2008
Murray, Utah

Intermountain Suzuki Institute for Piano and Guitar
Suzuki Piano Basics Tone Class for Teachers
Master Classes for Students
with Keiko Ogiwara, Keiko Kawamura,
Huub de Leeuw, Rae Kate Shen,
Linda Nakagawa, Aleli Tibay, KarLyn Brett, Cleo Brimhall,
Contact: Andrea Greger 801-768-0262

August, 1st week, 2008 (exact dates tba)
Rochester, NY

Suzuki Piano Basics teacher training workshop with
Japanese teachers & students
International Friendship Concert
Contact: Karen Hagberg 585-244-0490

August, 2nd week, 2008 (exact dates tba)
Sacramento, California

Suzuki Piano Basics teacher training workshop with
Japanese teachers & students
International Friendship Concert
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: 10 February 2008
Last Revised: 9 March 2012