Vol. 13.3 May/June 2008

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 13.3
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 14, 2008

Let's Listen to Classical Music

By Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Suzuki Piano Newsletter
Vol.12 No.11, April 1, 2003
Translated by Chisa Aoki
Teri Paradero
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

Classical music has been a part of my life for 70 some years, since I was born. Despite having had the opportunity to listen to other kinds of music, I have always loved classical music. Whenever, I listen to classical music it soothes my body, heart, and soul, and I become peaceful and relaxed.

It makes me happy to note the findings from various recent studies that point to the positive benefit of classical music for the human heart. However, everyone in this world is not a classical music lover. This is evident in the sale of CD's, where other genres generate much more business.

Why have I always loved classical music? I believe it is because of my childhood environment. Even though my mother was born in 1898, she was an avid fan of classical music. Back in those days, of course, we did not have the convenience of CD's. My very first recollection is of a hand-cranked record player. With the advent of electric-powered phonographs, we no longer had to crank the machine manually to listen to records. The duration of one side of a record was 3 minutes. (CD's are 74 minutes long.) We used a bamboo needle which was considered to produce the best sound quality. We would have to snip the bamboo needle with scissors each time we played one (3 minutes) side of the record.

By the time I was in middle school, my mother often asked me to turn the record player on. She would scold me if I didn't do it right, so it was an unpleasant chore for me. Despite all this, I was listening to very good classical performances. Furthermore, we listened only to news and classical music on the radio. My mother would take me to concerts as often as 2-3 times a month. If I did not behave well, I would be reprimanded so again, I disliked going to concerts. In spite of my feelings, I was exposed to quite a lot of classical music.

By the time I became an adult, unconsciously, and much to my surprise, I realized how much I had come to love classical music. Similarly, while I had been sickly in the past somehow I had become healthy.

Since I discovered research that proves water can recognize music and words (the book "The Hidden Messages in Water", by Masaru Emoto), I came to realize it was classical music that cured me, for 80% of human body consists of water.

(I am so happy to find out that there are various studies that show the benefits of listening to classical music and that there is research that proves that water can recognize music and words.)

During the postwar period (WW II), Suzuki Sensei began the Talent Education Institute. Believing that early childhood education was the most important, more than anytime in one's life, he would continually say, "Human education through classical music." The difference between traditional music education, however, and the Suzuki Method is that we understand that listening is more important than playing. You must let children listen to a lot of music: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. Listening should be the very beginning of music education.

It was fifty years ago, so Dr. Suzuki had no knowledge of the book, "The Hidden Messages in Water". Nevertheless, he was able to conceive a method of music education that had never been thought of before. He was insistent about having children listen to good, genuine music, not just music geared for children. Every child exposed to such music has grown up to become a wonderful adult. People who have grown up listening to a lot of classical music as children, have been brought up to become highly learned, cultured in all aspects of their lives.

More people in the world should become aware of creating an environment for children that allows them to be listening to classical music. There are some children who have the opportunity: those whose parents love to play and listen to the piano or violin everyday. But there are also many children who do not have such a beneficial advantage. Wouldn't it be possible for children to listen to good music in nursery school, kindergarten, before and after school, and during school breaks? It should also be possible to air classical music, at a low volume, in hospitals all day long. I was very surprised to hear from a medical student that classical music in the hospital environment has been promoted in America and Canada already for several decades. Japan is extremely behind the times when it comes to rehabilitation research.

But why classical music? Music is music no matter what variety it is. There is no distinction in music. It is quite the same with food. Whether it is fast food or French food, it is still food. It is fine for a person to prefer one over the other. However, fast food preparation is uncomplicated (simple) and French cuisine is very involved (intricate). Classical music does not convey blatant emotions but involves complicated musical intricacies. Once you fall in love with it, isn't it an unforgettable 'taste'? It has the power deeply to affect the human heart and soul.

If the whole world were enveloped in good music, there wouldn't be war. Can't we start a 'Let's listen to Classical Music' campaign, however gradual? The combined effort of single individuals can be influential and can result in the propagation of this practice. This reminds me of what the poet Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) once said: "There can be no individual happiness unless the whole world becomes happy." I pray that the whole world can listen to a lot of classical music so happiness can soon be a reality for the entire earth.

My First Time in Japan

by Karmalita Bawar, Richmond, Virginia

This is the first time I have traveled to Japan. I have heard about the experience from some wonderful teachers in the past, but felt if I could, I would try to make it here and experience it for myself.

There is a duality in the people here: they are both very organic (in touch with nature); and they have very sophisticated technical gadgets! There is a socialist spirit where no one is forgotten. For example, our host mother runs errands for her next-door neighbor who is too old to independently care for herself and has no family nearby. People still drop in to visit unannounced, and afternoon tea is commonplace. There is even community street clean up every week! The most striking trait is the sense of camaraderie. You see it when the children rehearse together, when the parents take notes and confer with the teachers, and when the teachers discuss with each other what is necessary to accomplish at that specific rehearsal moment.

Even though I can't speak Japanese, it is easy to follow what is going on during rehearsals. The teachers hear the piece all the way through once, then work on sections by giving very articulate advice. One teacher plays or sings what they would like the students to do, and then it is the students' turn (sometimes students play in succession, sometimes as a group, and sometimes in smaller groupings). The feedback is immediate and students often scramble to jot down a few notes on the score (or parents in their notebooks) before the next "get ready!" and "go!" The teachers not only possess acute listening/evaluation skills, but also excellent technique. The notes I have taken for each piece describe specific goals for each phrase, the order they are rehearsed, the number of times the student is expected to practice the specific phrase, and how to go about achieving the desired result.

This ensemble work is typical in fine orchestras, but rarely does a pianist experience the same kind of skills and drills as a group. This is why, I believe, 10-piano concerts are such wonderful tools for students. The daily rehearsals leading up to the concerts achieve so much, it's no wonder they are such a success. My student here is also working and practicing diligently and learning a great deal as well.

Lastly, I would like to mention the cultural exchange that exists here. Our host family was rightly nervous to make our stay here as comfortable as possible since this was the first time they have chosen to host teachers. Not only did they exceed all of our expectations, they also treated us to the area culture including museums, daily excursions to wonderful places unlike anywhere else in the world (Matsumoto Castle, ancient Cedar forest in Kiso Valley, Suwa mountain lake, public foot-spa, etc...), and food that is pleasing to the most discriminating palate. Even though they say their English is not very good, they speak broken English so well, I forget they are working to understand! When we cook for them or tell about the differences in our culture, they are very interested and often fascinated. Regardless of the differences in culture, the goal of the Suzuki Method is very close to their hearts as well, and that similarity needs no translation; it is universal to want the best for your child.

My Impressions of the 10-Piano Concert

by Betsy Wieser, Surrey, British Columbia

This was my first 10-Piano experience in Japan.

Dr. Kataoka always said that children are the same all over the world. In my homestay family, there were children who didn't like to practice, and they didn't always listen to the CD either. Not so different from Canadian children, I thought. On this trip halfway around the world, I came to a new level of understanding that children are, truly, the same in Canada and Japan.

My Japanese homestay family went above and beyond my expectations in giving a truly Japanese experience in every way. Their Japanese style house had beautiful wood carvings above the sliding doors in the tatami room. They were very accommodating as we were their first American experience. The concert performance brought tears to my eyes, hearing the end result of all the practices. It was so fun observing the students' reactions. Without exception, they loved being dressed up and performing.

I will go home with extra enthusiasm to be a better teacher so all my students will develop to a higher level. The tone is still in my ears.

Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert Sacramento, California, August 2009

General guidelines:

1.   All Suzuki Piano teachers are welcome to observe all sessions.
2.   Teachers who wish to enroll their student must be a member of Piano Basics Foundation.
3.   Preference will be given to teachers who have had lessons with a Japanese teacher in the summers of 2008       and 2009.
4.   It is highly recommended that the student also have had a lesson with a Japanese teacher.
5.   Teachers with students participating must attend all rehearsals.
6.   Students who come alone and require homestay must be old enough to take care of themselves       (independent of their parents).
7.   Priority will go to teachers who have observed, or have had their students participate in, past 10-piano       concerts.
8.   Students will be chosen on the basis of repertoire and homestay availability.
9.   Homestay is not available for families. Students coming with parents are asked to stay in a hotel for the       duration of the 2 weeks. Practice facilities will be provided.
10. There is a greater possibility that students will be accepted if homestay is not requested.

For questions, please contact Linda Nakagawa Linda Nakagawa

...when a host of difficulties comes and you refuse to give up in spite of all obstacles...

by Vicki Merley, Oro Valley, Arizona

This seems to be my life: one difficult obstacle after another. Here in Japan, I see the students come to experience this difficult task of playing together, of striving to attain a goal of highest accomplishment in playing: Take all the basics of balance, rhythm, tone and beautiful melody, and wrap them into the performance of your life. Is it possible to prepare students for an unforgettable experience such as this if the teacher is only able to maintain a studio for a few years?

This seems to be the question I must ask. I have had to move three times since 1998. I've just moved from New Mexico to Arizona. It's a daunting job to set up a piano studio and start from scratch yet again. Should I do it? Is it of value to the students to have three years of deep, intense study of the basics? My New Mexico students wanted to keep me as their teacher. Students there have had lessons from me for four years or less. They are making progress; it's helpful to see that we can make progress even on my return to Albuquerque only twice a month.

But, it's a hard thing. The Arizona studio is in its infancy and I can see that it will take years to prepare the students there for a Japan trip.

Life is hard. We have choices. Either choose to pursue what we see is best in the art of teaching piano, or settle for 'good enough.' I think it is not in my nature to ever give up, either on myself or my students. I want the best and highest in this pursuit of the art of teaching piano. So, I'm here, and will continue.

Rubens and Picasso at the Onsen (Hot Spring)

By Barb Ruffalo

Imagine two middle-aged women away from their husbands (one for the first time ever) desperately trying to experience their own individuality.

One robust Montana farmgirl bursting at the seams with enthusiasm to experience Japan for the first time.

The other, a "second time to Japan" woman with the body of a breast cancer survivor.

SETTING: Japanese onsen

USE YOUR IMAGINATION!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hence... Rubens and Picasso at the onsen.

Just one of the many delightful and quirky experiences my roommate Vicki Merley and I experienced in our two wonderful weeks in Matsumoto.


The Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation General Membership Meeting will take place during the Rochester Teacher Research Workshop on Wednesday, August 6 at noon. Please submit agenda items to Karen Hagberg. Our nominating chairperson, Ann Taylor, is accepting nominations for officers. Please contact her at annttaylor@cox.netbefore June 30.

Can I Hear?

By Linda Nakagawa

"I want to become a better teacher for my students." These words are very simple, but they sing deeply into my soul. I know that I am not alone. I think most teachers feel this way. How one goes about pursuing one?s dreams is purely individual. The commonality we all have is that we've all chosen to study with Dr. Haruko Kataoka. She is no longer with us, but thank goodness she worked very hard to teach the Matsumoto teachers. We must continue to learn from them. We must continue to grow with what she gave us. It is very easy to go astray. We have had to change our way of thinking. We have had to develop new, more natural abilities. We must continue in that vein.

Only time will tell how well we are learning. I look back on my teaching and remember I was able to teach the notes to my advanced students. I realize that my inability to teach them how to produce a better tone handicapped them. The question is, "Am I making the same mistakes now?" The results are constantly in our students. We have to learn to listen.

Yesterday I heard a concert pianist perform the Brahm's second piano concerto with the San Francisco Symphony. There were some good sounds and there were some very mediocre sounds. I mention this not to criticize, but to educate. We must be able to distinguish the good and not so good tones. We must be able to demonstrate how to produce good sounds. Because of my studies with Dr. Kataoka, I have the confidence that if I can hear what needs improving, I can help the student. That is the positive. On the flip side of that is, "What am I not hearing?"

I remember one of my lessons with Dr Kataoka. I earnestly tried to prove that my ability was improving. She simply said to me, "Linda, this is music." Hence, I immediately realized I wasn't listening to my own sound! How often does that happen?

Observing the 10-Piano rehearsals in Matsumoto rekindles the fire in me to try harder to listen to my own sound. Dr. Kataoka always said that if one student moves a finger unnaturally, it is impossible for the group to play together. The quest is to teach all of our students to be able to use their bodies naturally to produce better sounds from the piano. The only way to teach is to develop that ability in our own playing. Knowledge and words touch the brain. It is good to ?understand?. However, mere understanding doesn?t teach. Our demonstration is what teaches. To judge our ability to teach is just to listen to our students. The quality of our teaching is revealed in their ability to play. Can we hear the difference between a loud sound and a banging sound? Can we hear the difference between a soft sound and a weak sound? And how well can we demonstrate the difference?

Piano Basics Foundation
Upcoming Workshops/Events

June 3-7, 2008
Louisville, Kentucky

University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Institute
featuring Keiko Kawamura, Keiko Ogiwara, Bruce Anderson, Karen Hagberg, Cathy Hargrave,
and Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Bruce Boiney 502-241-5921

June 9-13, 2008
Sandy, Utah

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop
featuring Keiko Kawamura and Keiko Ogiwara
Intermountain Suzuki Institute for Piano and Guitar
With Robin Blankenship, Leah Brammer,
KarLyn Brett, Cleo Ann Brimhall,
Huub deLeeuw, Cathy Hargrave, Joan Krzywicki,
Rae Kate Shen and Aleli Tibay
Contact: Andrea Greger 801-768-0262

Sunday, June 29, 2008
Cambridge, England

Anniversary Suzuki Piano Concert
& Teacher Symposium
Students may apply at 3 levels.
Contact: Stephen Power
Details available

July 20 - 23, 2008
Tacoma, Washington

Suzuki Piano Basics Summer Festival with Bruce Anderson
Contact: Jacki Block 253-759-7213

July 28 - August 1, 2008
Saint Louis, Missouri

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

August 3 - 7, 2008, Sunday Thursday
Rochester, NY

Suzuki Piano Basics teacher training workshop with
Japanese teachers & students
International Friendship Concert, Monday, August 4
(audition videos due June 1)
Contact: Karen Hagberg 585-244-0490

August 10-14, 2008
Sacramento, California

Suzuki Piano Basics teacher training workshop with
Japanese teachers & students
International Friendship Concert, Tuesday, August 12
(audition videos due June 1)
Contact: Linda Nakagawa 916-422-2952,

November 7-9, 2008
Toronto, Ontario
Royal Conservatory of Music

20th Annual Conference of the Suzuki Association of Ontario,
in conjunction with "The Art of Teaching" Celebration at the
newly renovated Royal Conservatory of Music.
"The Legacy of Haruko Kataoka," talk by Karen Hagberg;
"Piano teachers" retreat facilitated by Karen Hagberg
Contact: Elizabeth Sherk 416-431-7264

The events listed above are for the information of Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation members and others.
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation does not endorse, sanction, or sponsor events.

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

Change of Email addresses:

Chisa Aoki

Manette Allred

Jil Lipe

Christ Tsai

Raquel Moreno

Jeanne Beegle

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

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

First Online Edition: 02 October 2008 2008
Last Revised: 9 March 2012