Volume 1.4, September/October 1996

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

People of my mother's generation in Japan had many wonderful sayings which they used in the course of their daily lives. I remember in particular these two:

"In your studies, constantly look at those who are better than you and never at those behind you."

"In life look at those who are worse off than you are. You must not look at those who are better off."

These are truly marvelous sayings, but difficult to follow. We often look at those who are not as good as we are in our studies and think that we are better. Then we begin to get lazy. In life it is easy to look with envy at those who have better lives which causes us to forget to be grateful for what we do have. Then we just complain about our misfortune.

The sayings tell us that people should constantly work and strive towards higher goals and standards and to treasure our inner being without constantly chasing after material things.

The first saying should affect the education of children. I am always dismayed to see the content of so-called "children's entertainment" and educational materials. They are so simplistic, as if children cannot understand anything. I recently reviewed a popular cartoon in Japan called Anpan Man which is the favorite of two children I know, ages one and three. The parents let them see this cartoon as much as they want, thinking that the children should enjoy themselves. It is a very simplistic and obvious story promoting good over evil.

Making only childish materials available to children is based on a huge misconception. In the first few years, a child's left brain has not yet developed, and this means that they do not have any knowledge. They respond directly to whatever they see and hear, and they are unable to express in words whatever they feel with their emotions (the right side of the brain). But the experience and judgment of the emotions in themselves are fully developed from birth. An adult has a wealth of knowledge with which to express opinions and interpretations of whatever they may be feeling. A child, experiencing the very same feelings is, however, unable verbally to relate the experience in the same way. The more complex the feelings, the less the child can describe them. Because of this, adults become convinced that children need simplistic materials for their entertainment and education, and they arbitrarily provide children with only these things. The great majority of children's toys and activity books are based on this basic misunderstanding.

The result is that society itself makes children look below themselves in their studies. It is not the children's fault that they are looking down. The adults are forcing them to look down. It may be cute when a child responds to a simple thing and struggles to explain it to us, but they should not just enjoy simple and obvious things. As parents and instructors around children, please do not forget constantly to give them things that are difficult to listen to and to see. Please also do not try to have them respond in words to the things they are hearing and seeing, as it is too difficult for them to do this when they are young.

The beauty of nature and the splendid fragrance of the arts are necessary for people from childhood. Whether they are exposed to such things daily for ten or twenty years or whether they have been exposed only to lowly, common things will determine that individual's sensibility for the rest of his or her life.

From the Newsletter of the Matsumoto Piano Teachers Association of the Talent Education Research Institute, Volume 5, Number 10, March 19, 1996; translated by Reverend Ken Fujimoto and edited by Karen Hagberg.

Reflections from the Fourth International
Suzuki Piano Conference


by Dr. Karen Hagberg

(For me "Atlanta" began on Thursday, August 8 when Seizo Azuma played the concert he was to play in Atlanta here in Rochester, New York. It ended on Thursday, August 22, when 49 of the visitors from Japan who had been in Atlanta left Rochester for Tokyo after staying here two nights at the end of a short sightseeing tour of Toronto and Niagara Falls.)

Thursday, August 8: Seizo's concert. Wonderful, albeit old, hall. Mercifully not too hot. Seizo's incredible playing, on the Kawai EX-100, heard for the first time in Rochester, dazzled the audience. Many young children, but you could hear a pin drop during Seizo's wonderful silences. It will be so much easier to teach now that my students and their parents have heard this sound and have experienced this level of concentration live, in their very presence.

After the concert, my student Charley (almost 13 years old) sat next to Seizo in the restaurant. Wonder and admiration showed all over his face. He compared his hand size to Seizo's. They were about the same, Seizo's just a little bigger.

Friday, August 9: Seizo spends the day shopping for food and cooking a Moroccan feast for 10 people. He is also, we discover, an artist in the kitchen. He is surprised that the exotic ingredients he needs are available in Rochester. We Rochesterians are proud of our resources.

Saturday, August 10: I leave for Atlanta. Seizo and seven students and parents leave too, on separate flights. There is excitement and anticipation in the air. I arrive at the hotel to find my students dripping wet in the lobby of the hotel after a time in the pool. They seem right at home.

Reunions begin. Old friends from all over the world. Thankful to be here.

Sunday, August 11: Early morning 5-Piano Concert rehearsal. The students are tired. Oh well, there's another rehearsal at 2 p.m. and before that a dress rehearsal for Monday's Friendship concert. Busy, busy.

Seizo again at 7 p.m. This time in a big, new, beautiful hall with a much larger audience. I am feeling grateful for the students who got to hear him twice. Both times the concert seemed to end too quickly. We could have listened to him all night.

Monday, August 12: The Conference teaching begins. Not only Dr. Kataoka this time, but also Seizo Azuma, Keiko Ogiwara, Ayako Fujiwara, and Keiko Kawamura all are scheduled to teach the nearly 200 students who will participate in the Conference. There have never been this many students at our International Piano Workshops in the past. So many students give the event a different, more vibrant flavor, I think. I am challenged by my job as interpreter, but learn so much while doing it, as usual.

International Friendship Concert at 7 p.m. All the performers do such a good job. It is an elegant and special event in the same wonderful hall as Seizo's concert and on the same wonderful piano (another Kawai EX-100). The "star" of the show is 9-year-old Hiroo Ohtuski from Japan, blind since birth, who played the Mozart d minor Fantasy as a solo and then the Haydn D major Concerto with a local youth orchestra. The audience gives him a very long, standing ovation. I'll make sure to bring a videotape back for my families who aren't here.

Tuesday, August 13: All day lessons, meetings, rehearsals, interpreting. Dress rehearsal for the 5-Piano concert is interrupted by a small fire in the basement of the hall, necessitating moving the concert to the wonderful hall were we started the week. All are happy about the move except for the organizers who must make it happen. They stay up all night rescheduling the next two days.

Wednesday, August 14: Up at 5 a.m. to assist with schedule changes. Abbreviated lesson and lecture schedule will allow for a dress rehearsal before the concert. The children are all excited. The day goes all too quickly. I barely have enough time to run to the hotel to change (forget dinner!), and before we know it we're in the midst of the concert. Parents are signed up to keep order among the performers in the audience.

Backstage things go smoothly, but those of us setting up benches and footrests are working constantly from beginning to end. We replace one of the adjustable chairs with an artist bench for Keiko Kawamura in the last piece (Liszt's La Campanella) so that she may sit about a quarter inch lower than the chair will go. I must remember to tell my students' parents how important just a quarter inch can be in the height of the chair.

I am relieved that my two groups of students have finished playing at the beginning of the concert. I try as hard as I can to listen to the other students from my post backstage, but realize that I won't really be able to study the concert until I can see the videotape.

The end of the concert is a mass of performers and flowers onstage, flashbulbs flashing, audience cheering. My students are thrilled that Dr. Kataoka joins us for dessert at the conclusion.

Thursday, August 15: A full day of teaching lessons. I skip the teacher dinner in order to get ready for the International Forum and first general meeting of Piano Basics Foundation at 7 p.m.

Our attendance at these sessions is high. Haruko Sakakibara graciously agrees to perform the difficult task of interpreting back and forth between English and Japanese. Because of her help, we are able to understand each other better than ever, and we have a dialogue between the Japanese and English-speaking teachers. We have reports of Piano Basics work being done in Japan, the United States, Canada, Singapore, South America and Finland.

I feel excited about the various activities happening around the world. Happy about the lives of the children and their families who are involved in this kind of piano study. So much international exchange is going on. There are 27 Japanese students at this conference (most of whom will visit Rochester next week!), and by now four of my students have visited Japan. I think about the kind of piano teacher I used to be, and vow to continue to try to let piano lessons be a threshold of opportunity for my students to experience the whole world.

The Piano Basics Foundation general meeting was very encouraging. There is so much heartfelt support among our members in the form of memberships, generous contributions, and offers to help our various projects. We address directly the issue of the International Suzuki Association's attempt to force Dr. Kataoka out of "Suzuki Method." We all feel that the ISA's actions are mean-spirited and outrageous, and we unanimously decide to challenge their legal threats toward us.

The evening ends with a warm feeling of support and encouragement. We look forward to our next international conference in the summer of 1998, place to be announced.

Friday, August 16: The conference is almost over. After the morning sessions, there is an informal, "community concert" in the lobby of the concert hall. People bring their lunches. An entire daycare center arrives to experience the music. Before the concert, Dr. Kataoka is introduced to the crowd with much applause. The students look tired, but do their best before a very appreciative audience.

Afternoon sessions are over quickly, followed by the long good-byes which always end these events. In her final lecture, Dr. Kataoka reiterates the need for our students to learn to get ready well, before they play, or practice, anything. This involves getting into the rhythm of the piece or section they are about to play, assuming the correct posture, and focusing the concentration. I will try to teach these points in every lesson.

I say just a brief good-bye to my Japanese friends, because I will see them on Tuesday in Rochester.

Saturday, August 17: Fly home in the early morning laden down with my pedal extender (borrowed for the conference) and two adjustable benches which I am taking home for students.

Sunday-Monday, August, 18-19: Teach lessons all day, but keep feeling that I should be cleaning my house instead!!!

Tuesday, August 20: Teach lessons until 3 p.m. then pick up lots of ice and head over to my student's house where the 49 visitors will arrive by bus from Toronto. The bus arrives at 5:30, the guests spilling out with luggage to be picked up by the host families. All come to the back yard, and the children jump into the big pool. The American and Japanese children begin to display their incredible ability to communicate without language. Several sheet pizzas are consumed and several watermelons. After three hours, all go home.

Wednesday, August 21: Beginning at 8 p.m. the Japanese students show up at my studio to get their portraits taken in their dress clothes. My host families look tired, but are bearing up. At 1 p.m. we go to our local amusement park for the afternoon. I am relieved at 5 o'clock that all are accounted for. Also relieved that we have had good weather for both the pool party and the amusement park. The children go home with their families to relax and have informal concerts. The Japanese teachers and parents come to my house for dinner. After dinner, the four young teachers who were my close friends in Japan, stay up most of the night with me and make 49 lunches to send with the guests tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 22: Get up at 4 a.m. (at least I got an hour's sleep!) and make wake-up calls to all the host families. Meet everyone at the airport at 5:30 a.m. Again, so thankful that all are accounted for! 6:40 a.m.


A special thanks and heartfelt appreciation goes to each of the organizers, directors, and local personnel in Atlanta who contributed to the overwhelming success of the Fourth International Suzuki Piano Conference. It was great to be in Atlanta!


"The Magic of Dr. Suzuki's Research"

by Cleo Brimhall

As Suzuki teachers we often quote Dr. Suzuki's famous saying, "We are the children of our environment." In his book, Nurtured by Love, he states:

"Good environmental conditions and a fine education cannot help but bring children genuine welfare and happiness, as well as promising light and hope for the future of mankind."

Yet another favorite quote of mine is,

"Do not not rest...Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there. To commit oneself to untiring patience and strong endurance, what we call KAN - intuition or sixth sense-is an absolute necessity in education."

Dr. Kataoka has said in her book, Sensibility and Education,

"I would like to repeat that a good environment is a critical factor in the development of a child. However, everybody tends to overlook the fact that parents themselves are an important part of this environment....Parents need to respect whatever comes out of their child and must try their best to be a good environment in which their child may learn. A piano teacher is also an environment for a child....We adults need to try very hard to become parents and teachers who constitute a 'good environment'."

When working with new teachers in Suzuki Piano, I often use these points to illustrate the importance of teachers training the parents to create a musical and nurturing environment for their families. The teachers at the same time should work on creating a musical and nurturing environment for their students. Part of this environment is exposure to fine artist performances and to other students, seriously and joyfully working in a cooperative and non-competitive atmosphere. I quote Dr. Suzuki's admonition to us to: "let them (the students) listen and let them learn."

During the recent International Suzuki Piano Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia with Dr. Kataoka, it occurred to me that over the past several years Dr. Kataoka has gently and unobtrusively guided the teachers she has worked with to create a wonderful environment for themselves for the study of Dr. Suzuki's ideas:

Over the past eight years, I have noticed that the newsletter has been much appreciated and is a wonderful forum for sharing ideas. I have participated in a research group with great enthusiasm and I have heard of similar groups around the world. A service of ordering fine CD's, videos, and Piano Basics books has been started - especially advantageous for those who live in areas where these products are not readily available. As to the workshops and Ten-Piano Concerts, students of all levels and ages have increasingly been inspired to attend and participate - many have had home-stay experiences with new friends in various parts of the world. Students have watched each other and rejoiced in their achievements and gone away with determination to continue with joy and improvement. Teachers have studied carefully, shared openly and begun to see the results and potential. They have gone away also with determination and absolute knowledge that "it can be done and we can do it!" The conferences are becoming like reunions as teachers become closely acquainted with colleagues world wide.

This Fourth International Suzuki Piano Workshop was particularly inspired by a tremendous leap in the playing level of all the students, from Book 1 through the Liszt La Campanella. There were more students from many more teachers represented and the quality of playing was wonderful., There were two solo recitals and one Five-Piano concert presented. After years of patient nurturing and basic teaching, the results are sheer beauty.

The artist for the workshop was Seizo Azuma. In my opinion, his performance has richly matured and grown in artistry. Mr. Azuma also gave master classes to advanced students during the workshop. He has been recently asked to participate next spring in the Japanese National Teachers Conference in Hamamatsu.

With my reflections on this environment, I felt a debt of gratitude to Dr. Kataoka:


by Cathy Williams-Hargrave

The concert pianist, Seizo Azuma, from Yokohama, Japan was quite a sensation during his American tour. He performed in Sacramento, California on August 1; Dallas, Texas on August 4, Rochester, New York on August 8, and Atlanta, Georgia at the International Suzuki Piano Conference on August 11. The program consisted of Mozart's Sonata, K. 331, Beethoven's Sonata, Opus 27, no. 2 (Moonlight), and five Liszt compositions which included Consolation, no 3, two Grandes Etudes de Paganini ("La Chasse" and "La Campanella"), Sonetto 104 del Petrarch, and Hungarian Rhapsody, no. 2.

The August 4th concert was organized by the North Texas Suzuki Association. The NTSA teachers tried to create the most ideal concert setting possible. The first step was to invite a superior performer. Next, we rented a concert hall with excellent acoustics. The crowning touch came from the Kawai America Corporation who sent a brand new nine-foot Kawai EX concert grand from the main factory in Hamamatsu, Japan. The piano was accompanied by the assistant manager of the factory who prepared it for the concert.

Mr. Azuma disappointed no one! All the audience were thrilled by his performance. Grown men wept from the beauty of his tone; children were silent for the two hour long performance; and seasoned concert-goers asked why they had never heard of this superb pianist. I was especially moved by a few members of the audience who were from a half-way house for recovering drug addicts. They seemed to love the experience. Over 400 people from all walks of life attended the concert and everyone is looking forward to making this a yearly event.

This experience has become the highlight of the year. Rave reviews have also been reported from Sacramento, Rochester, and Atlanta.

I would encourage everyone to organize a concert by Seizo Azuma on any other fine artist in the future.

Dr. Suzuki says, "Beautiful Tone, Beautiful Heart." Mr. Azuma is a living example of this philosophy.


by Dr. Haruko Kataoka

Clementi: Sonatina, Op. 36, no. 1, Allegro:

The same is true for any piece: first memorize the notes while also listening to the recording as much as possible. Memorize the same way as we have done in Books 1 and 2. First of all, learn the piece in the right hand, one phrase or even one or two measures at a time. Do extensive practice in the right hand, and then learn the left hand. After learning the hands separately, put them together, Learn all the way to the end of the piece in this way.

After memorizing all the notes, we may begin to study the first half of the piece.

The first note in the right hand, C (do), is a quarter note. Because it is the first beat note in quadruple time, produce a deep tone on it. All the notes in measure 1 constitute the first phrase. This is another reason to sing out the C for its full, long value and in a heartfelt way. (Please pay attention not to hit it, it is not an accent.)

The E and C (mi-do) are eighth notes on the second beat, a light beat, so they should be played with a light tone and legato. The next two G's (sol-sol) create rhythm in this phrase. Play rhythmically and lightly with beautiful tone, using the thumb correctly.

Play the quarter note in the left hand exactly the right length. It is an important tone on the first beat, but it is also a low tone and the accompaniment. Therefore play it firmly but not too strong.

The second measure is the same as the first, but the fourth beat in the right hand is an octave higher. Because this note goes up suddenly, sing it out long, and play carefully with a light tone. Do not play staccato. This high G (sol) begins the following phrase.

The next two measures have nothing but eighth notes, mostly descending. The most important study point in this piece begins here: the legato eighth notes.

  1. First we need patience to practice legato on the first four notes, FEDC (fa-mi-re-do) with a quiet tone while slowly moving soft fingers one at a time. Whenever playing this piece, for example even if it is prepared for a concert tomorrow, this practice must be done.

    It is very difficult to play the next four notes, BCBC (ti-do-ti-do) legato. Do not play them in two groups of two, but truly in a four-note grouping. This means that the strong beat on B is always carefully and deeply played, and the following three notes, CBC (do-ti-do), must be played lightly and smoothly. The next four-note groupings are the same descending scales as the previous ones.

  2. From the last two eighth notes at the end of measure 6 until the eighth notes in measure 8, do legato practice in the same way. Use a quiet tone and stretch out soft fingers one by one, moving them as if doing calligraphy with a soft brush.

  3. In the same way, divide the scales in measures 8 and 10 into groups of four. Practice as above to make those scales completely legato and quiet. We tend to think that scales are easy, but they are very important and difficult. Therefore always pay attention to them. After being able to play ascending scales in groups of four eighth notes quietly, with good legato, practice playing the last two notes at the top F#-G a little louder to create the crescendo which occurs naturally in ascending scales.

    In measure 11 we need to practice playing the three high notes lightly and rhythmically after singing out the low tone deeply and fully with the thumb.

  4. Practice playing the eighth notes in measures 12-15 legato, slowly and carefully, ten times, twenty times, thirty times every day.

If we do constant slow practice at the places described in nos. 1-4 above, we can perform this piece beautifully, no matter how fast we play, without falling into confusion.

In measures 9-11 in the left hand, practice in rhythms playing the first eighth note in each group long and deeply, followed by the next three notes lightly and softly. Always practice the left hand alone.

Please study the first half of the piece diligently. Begin the second half only after learning the first half quite well.

Measures 16-17 in the right hand are as rhythmic as the beginning of the first half but in the next two measures (18-19) there is a melody which must be sung out legato and beautifully, while playing the left hand in a very quiet tone.

In measures 20-21 in the right hand, please do not play the octaves in a fluttering or noisy way. Practice them using the strength of the hand without stretching. First when playing the fifth finger, do not open the hand, but put the thumb under the four other fingers and then play G (sol) with a soft fifth finger (like a calligraphy brush). Next open the hand slowly and softly and play the thumb, moving laterally across the key. If we repeat this slow practice, no matter how fast the tempo we may perform quietly and with good legato.

The left hand in meas. 20-21 is the same melody as measures 18-19 in the right hand, and then the melody shifts to the right hand in measures 22-23.

From measure 24 to the end of the piece the music is almost the same as the first half. However, please play the thirds in measure 20 with a musical tone using the soft palm of the hand and being careful not to produce a hard tone. Sound the tone by gently taking with the fingertips without shaking the palm.

If we play this piece legato and well, it is a very beautiful piece. It is a very good legato study. Please practice it diligently.

The official publication of Piano Basics Foundation


Honorary Chair
Dr. Haruko Kataoka

Honorary Director
Dr. Carol Browning

President - Dr. Karen Hagberg
Cleo Brimhall
Joan Krzywicki
Cathy Williams-Hargrave
Secretary - Cheryl Kraft
Treasurer - Linda Nakagawa

By-laws of Piano Basics Foundation are available upon request from the Secretary.


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Dr. Haruko Kataoka

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First Published Online: 2 September 1997
Last Revised: 21 February 2001