We in Japan are familiar with Prince Shotoku (circa 574-622 CE), even though we may not know much about his life or his contributions to Japanese history, because his likeness appears on the 1O,OOO-yen bill.
I learned about Prince Shotoku in grammar school. The thing that amazed me as a child was that Prince Shotoku was an especially gifted person who, it was said, could hear seven different people speaking at the same time as they aired their grievances. Most people have a difficult enough time hearing and comprehending one person, so how could a person understand what seven people were saying at the same time?
As a child I found this incomprehensible. However, with the passage of many decades I have recently begun to understand. Are good pianists not doing exactly the same thing as Prince Shotoku? Pianists begin with two simple voices at first, the solo and accompaniment, and when they have to perform three to five voices, they must hear and differentiate many sounds, many voices, at the same time.
Learning to play the piano is truly to learn the same skill that Prince Shotoku had! That is to learn to develop a high level of concentration. It is a very difficult task to concentrate on several different sounds at once. It is not something that you can do right away no matter how hard you try.
If a child does not begin to do this from the very first lesson, it will probably not ever be possible to develop this skill. From the time three-year old children start to play the piano, please teach them by asking them to concentrate on each sound carefully. Let us teach and nurture them to differentiate between the soft sounds of music and harsh, non-musical sounds. By doing so, when they become advanced they will even be able to differentiate five voices as did Prince Shotoku and to distinguish different sounds from all ten fingers. With this ability they will be able to transform the tones to produce a beautiful performance. Regardless of how old they may be when they start, the beginning is critical. We must, with effort and perseverance, patiently nurture the ability to concentrate, listen and differentiate
In the Suzuki Method, one listens to the recordings carefully and learns the piece before playing, so this is a method in which nurturing the ability to listen is relatively easy. However, I would like to caution you that even though it is important to listen to the recordings frequently, this ability to listen and to distinguish among a number of voices will not be nurtured unless we teach children from the very beginning what sounds are simply noise, what is long and short, heavy and light. We teach this by having them concentrate and listen for those differences and by teaching them to sing the melody on the piano so that they can begin to learn how to play with their bodies.
Dr. Suzuki observed that children who are nurtured from the beginning with a high goal in sight, will develop abilities that an adult could never attain.
We must, with effort and perseverance, patiently nurture the ability to concentrate, listen and differentiate.
Let us constantly strive not to ruin the children through improper nurturing. We must develop many Prince Shotokus. That ability to concentrate is not only for music, but will serve them well in many different ways in the future.
Illustration by Julie Kataoka
Translated by Rev. Ken Fujimoto
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Make your plans now!
See you this summer!
The schedule for Dr. Kataoka's summer workshops is made by mid-October of the preceding year. Anyone wishing to invite Dr. Kataoka for a 1999 workshop should write to her by August 15, 1998. Her address is:
Copies of the invitation must be sent to:
P.O. Box 342
Yachats, OR 97408
Like many other Suzuki piano parents, I attended Dr. Kataoka's parent talk at the Sacramento Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop on August 17, in the Golden State Room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. As one of the highlights of the workshop, I knew the session would be packed. I tried to get there early and unabashedly made my way to the empty seat closest to the front of the room. After all, this was my annual opportunity to hear one of the founders of the Suzuki Piano Method. This was a teacher who had reflected on her own experiences as mother, teacher, children's advocate, and expert musician. As a result her advice emanates from a background of knowledge, care, commitment and love.
My husband and I had heard Dr. Kataoka speak on two previous occasions, and both times we left the sessions energized and with a refreshing approach to our son Luke's piano study. What Dr. Kataoka did for me, however went beyond the piano. Each time I heard her speak, I left the parent talk with new resolve and commitment in my role as mother, teacher, and facilitator. Each time I felt myself grow and develop in new and different ways in terms of these multiple roles. Today I would have the opportunity to measure how well I was doing, to self-evaluate and move forward...
Parental strictness is fine, and even desirable under the right conditions.
On our drive home after my son's master lesson with Dr. Kataoka, Luke apologized to me for admitting publicly that I was strict. He was replying to Dr. Kataoka's question at the time. But according to Dr. Kataoka, strictness in a parent is something to be embraced, not avoided. She teaches that love is at the heart of the parent-child relationship. If parents are confident about the love that they hold for their children, and are firm and unfaltering in this respect then they can afford to be as strict as they want because their children will know and feel their love instinctively. She compares loving a child with doing a very tedious task with a great deal of patience.
One of the examples that she used to substantiate this belief was observation of her son as he practiced piano with his three and a half year old daughter. Typically, he was getting frustrated with his daughter--she was using the wrong fingering--and so on. And even though he kept practicing with her for over an hour, a lot at her tender age, still the child undoubtedly realized that her father loved her, and that his foremost intention was to teach and help her develop the right skills. By the same token, although Dr. Kataoka perceived her own piano coaching of her own son (now grown up and the father of the same granddaughter) as having been a negative experience for him, she realized that he must have benefited from it in some way because now he so wanted to start his own daughter studying with Dr. Kataoka on the piano. She repeated her feeling that love, affection, and caring are the most important factors between parent and child, teacher and child.
She went on to say that Dr. Suzuki was the strictest person she has ever observed, that if he noticed that even one pitch in the melody of an entire piece was off, he would work on that tone for over half an hour. He was able to hold students up to such high standards because he was skilled at giving encouragement in a genuine way. He understood that as humans, we first need acknowledgment, then correction. Following this example, teachers and parents must beware of unsystematic and disingenuous praise because children are very sensitive beings, and will see right through it.
Parents should practice sound pedagogy by encouraging their students to be thorough, attend to details, and not take any shortcuts.
Dr. Kataoka developed this point using the example of tea-making, a skill that can be honed to a very fine art. She reminisced about her childhood days when her mother would send her back into the kitchen to make the tea again. Invariably, this was when she had made tea for her mother's guests and had eliminated a step or two in the process in her anxiety to get it over and done with. Not only does taking short cuts on the finely tuned process weaken the flavor of the tea, but more importantly, it sends a message to the recipient of the tea. She explained that in Matsumoto, while she is teaching lessons, it is the custom for some of the younger teachers to make tea for her, and that she experiences a different taste depending on who has made the tea. Indeed it is as if the heart of the person making the tea comes through in its delicate flavor.
Therefore, it behooves us as parents, to attend carefully to points of detail when practicing piano with our children. Even when we are doing something that seems trivial, like thumb practice, or little finger practice, it should be done carefully and without any short cuts. Such attention to detail, she suggested, is indicative of sound pedagogy. In so doing, we would be building a sound foundation for our children as parents. And although it is extremely difficult to do what she is advocating, if successful, we would have given our children a gift in childhood that they could build on later in life, and one that all the money in the world could never buy.
Piano performance is important because it justifies practice.
Having Dr. Kataoka's talk precede what turned out to be a stellar piano concert performance at the Sacramento State University Music auditorium the next day, helped emphasize the reality of this point. In making this point, Dr. Kataoka in fact reviewed the origins of the Suzuki Method, and highlighted the basic differences between the traditional approach to piano study and the innovative Suzuki Method. Having had our three older children study piano in the traditional way, I have come to a gradual but clear understanding of the Suzuki Method. In focusing on performance as a major goal in piano study and practice, this method strives for a total package that includes practice, refinement, and performance. The culmination is performance, and the prior stages of practice and refinement serve primarily to prepare the student to perform. That is why it is conceivable that a Suzuki student could be refining a particular piece over a prolonged period of a year or more with the ultimate aim of rendering a near-flawless performance. The objective is excellence and the buzzwords of "good tone" together with the routine of bowing to the audience, and of mental preparations and centering on stage before playing the piece and so on, are all parts of the total gestalt of the trained performer. It is practice in the pursuit of excellence.
But back to the method's origins. Not ironically, it started, explained Dr. Kataoka, when Dr. Shinichi Suzuki made some observations and reflections on the practice of teaching children a foreign language. I say not ironically, because music is arguably a kind of second language. Dr. Suzuki went to Germany at an early age, and realized that because of the method used at that time to teach foreign languages, he could read and write German, but could not speak it at all. This experience led him to deep reflection on the significance of practice in learning, and eventually to the creation of the Suzuki Method of music study with its special emphasis on learning and practice for the ultimate purpose of performance.
Values, skills and experiences learned early in life stay with a child forever.
Dr. Kataoka used the example of good food, good cooking, and the nurturing of the body as analogous with the need to nurture children's mind and spirit with good values, skills and experiences. Just as our adult preferences for certain foods are cultivated in our childhood days, so too are the less tangible, more enduring aspects of our adult lives. Dr. Kataoka enjoys blue cheese because she was influenced by her mother's participation in things English (her mother studied the English language, for example, and she was exposed to American style breakfast as a child). Similarly, she says that her international friends enjoy the restaurant version of Japanese cuisine more than they do the authentic home-prepared stuff, because of their previously practiced tastes. In the same way, the innate values and habits that are formed from the daily, careful practice and performance of the piano will carry over permanently into our children's lives as they grow into adulthood. Before leaving this point, she quipped that while visiting Louisville, she tried her hand at Ping Pong, after not playing for about fifteen years, and found out that she was still able to play because it was a skill she had learned as a child.
Maintaining a sense of humor is invaluable in teaching/learning.
Finally Dr. Kataoka reminded parents that in the midst of all our work with children, maintaining a sense of humor was critical to success. Later in a master lesson she told of her student who displayed a healthy sense of humor when he bought a dinosaur in the U.S. to take back to his mother in Japan, as a reflection of his mother's strictness. Her parting words at the end of the talk were an admonition for parents to spend a lot of time with their children, because childhood is the most important time of life. She also exhorted us not to look for fast and quick outcomes to our involvement and work with our children, because some of the best results of our work may take up to twenty years or more to become evident.
I close with a summary of the main points that Dr. Kataoka raised during Luke's master lesson. Unlike Dr. Kataoka's parent talk, her communicative style during her master lesson sessions is more direct and pointed. She tries to establish a framework of trust with the child and she teaches them with earnest, dedication, and corrective criticism. Children recognize her genuineness, and are willing to learn and grow. Parents sometimes have the feeling of being put on the spot, but because Dr. Kataoka is so open and critically reflective of her own performance as parent and teacher, she allows us to acknowledge our perceived and demonstrated shortcomings, and to move on. Although the comments were specific to Luke's performance of Kuhlau's Sonatina, Op. 55, No.1, Vivace, many of them are generally applicable to students of Suzuki piano study. Those are the ones given here as general guidelines for practice:
A few days after we returned home from the piano workshop, and settled back into our usual routines, I asked Luke if he were asked to identity, upon reflection, two things, that he learned from his master lessons with Kataoka Sensei, what would they be.
He replied briskly, "Sit up straight! It's good to be nervous.!"
When I came back from Japan after the last 10-Piano Concert, I was excited about the "clicker". All my students had to have one. They are the counters used for counting people at events and they go up to 9,999! I was fascinated when I saw one on the piano in a family's home whose child studied with Dr. Kataoka. They are used in practice for counting repetitions and were the perfect tool for renewing my vigor on spot practice.
Now, I'm excited about "videos". After the Sacramento Piano Basics Workshop, I realized that I had not been very effective in working on "ready" position with my students. My instructions were failing to inspire them to change. So, I hooked up a TV/VCR unit to my 8-mm camera which is positioned to view both pianos. The camera and VCR record at the same time, and the VHS tape is for the student to take home.
The students are fascinated watching themselves and other students on TV. I can rewind a short section of what has just been recorded and let students observe what they are doing. They can immediately connect the feeling and sound with the way their body looks. This greatly increases their self-awareness at the piano. Of course the VHS tape is useful at home too. Parents can watch the whole video, or more likely fast forward to specific parts of the lesson. Older students take the video quite seriously, perhaps realizing that with the video at home there's no excuse for not understanding the assignment. As a result of this research I think I know that my next big push will be videos of the 10-Piano Concert for every student's home. I am realizing what a useful tool the video can be in providing the optimum environment.
Rita Burns, teacher
Madeline Klink (10)
Erin Bigelow (18)
Anne Klink, parent<
Linda Nakagawa, teacher
From Sunnyvale, CA
From Lakeland, FL
From Tampa, FL
From Atlanta, GA|
Leah Brammer, teacher
Bria Long (11)
Kelsey Kuehn (7)
Cheryl Davis, parent
Pam Smith, teacher
From Louisville, KY
Gloria Elliott, teacher
From Rocheeter, NY
From Philadelphia, PA
From Pasco, WA
Piano Basics Foundation has recently been organized to support the method of teaching and playing the piano taught at the Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto, Japan by Dr. Haruko Kataoka. Piano Basics Foundation will provide its members who order recordings, books and videos with free postage and handling.
Below is a listing of books, videotapes and recordings (instructional materials). If you are looking for a particular recording, enclose a note with the composer's name, instrument, name of the piece and the name of the artist. We will let you know if it is available or not.
PIANO BASICS FOUNDATION CATALOG OF EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS DISCOGRPAHY SUZUKI PIANO REPERTOIRE Prices good through December 1997 Non- ID/Composer ARTIST TITLE LABEL CAT# Member member VOLUME 1 H. Kataoka Volume 1 PBF 5005 14.00 17.00 VOLUME 2 H. Kataoka Volume 2 PBF 5007 14.00 17.00 VOLUME 3 H. Kataoka Volume 3 PBF 5009 14.00 17.00 H. Kataoka Set PBF 5011 36.00 51.00 VOLUME 4: Mozart W. Gieseking Minuet I,III, VIII CAP 63688 85.00 95.00 K. 315a Beethoven W. Gieseking Sonata, Op.49, No.2 PHS 9930 17.00 20.00 Emil Gilels Sonata, Op.49, No.2 PLC 19172 16.00 20.00 Bach Dinu Lipatti Minuet I & II CAP 69800 10.00 13.00 Gigue (BWV 825) VOLUME 5: Beethoven V. Ashkenazy Fur Elise PLC 17751 10.00 13.00 (Bagatelle WoO 59) J.S. Bach Glenn Gould Prelude in C COL 52600 31.00 34.00 (Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1) Andras Schiff as above PLC 14388 30.00 33.00 J.S. Bach Glenn Gould Inventions 2&3 Part COL 52596 15.00 18.00 Andras Schiff as above PLC 11974 15.00 18.00 Haydn Ingrid Haebler Sonata in C. PLC 42659 10.00 13.00 Hob. XVI, No. 35 VOLUME 6: J.S. Bach Andras Segovia, Little Prelude CAP 61048 10.00 13.00 guitar (Preludes for Lute, BWV 999) Mozart W. Gieseking Sonata K.545 CAP 63688 85.00 95.00 A. de Larrocha Sonata K.545 RCAV 60709 15.00 17.00 (with K.281, 252, 254) Daquin S. Rachmaninoff The Cuckoo RCA 61265 107.00 125.00 (The Complete Recordings of S. Rachmaninoff) Mozart W. Gieseking Sonata K.330 CAP 63688 85.00 95.00 A. de Larrocha Sonata K.330 RCAV 60454 15.00 18.00 (with K.309, 310, and 311) Scarlafli Dinu Lipatti Sonata "Pastoral" CAP 69800 10.00 13.00 L.413 VOLUME 7: Mozart W. Gieseking Sonata K.331 CAP 63688 85.00 95.00 A. de Larrocha Sonata K.331 RCAV 60407 15.00 17.00 (with K.253, 332, and 333) Handel S. Rachmaninoff Harmonious Blacksmith RCA 61265 107.00 125.00 (The Complete Recordings of S. Rachmaninoff) Paderewski Padenewski Minuet RCAV 60923 10.00 13.00 (No Longer Available) ADDITIONAL DISCOGRAPHY A. de Larrocha Spanish Fireworks/- PLC 17795 10.00 13.00 Piano Collection A. de Larrocha Spanish Serenade RCAV 61389 14.00 17.00 A. de Larrocha Spanish Encores PLC 17639 15.00 18.00 Impresiones... V. Horowitz Private collection RCAV 62643 14.00 17.00 V. Horowitz Complete RCA Recordings RCAV 61655 212.00 240.00 J.S. Bach Glenn Gould Italian Concetto/- COL 42527 7.00 10.00 Partita/Tocatta Beethoven F. Gulda Piano Sonatas PLC 43012 15.00 18.00 14/15/17/21/23/24 V. Ashkenazy Piano Sonatas 1-32 PLC 25590 94.00 105.00 Complete (No Longer Available) Beethoven/- S. Azuma Piano Sonata 8/26 EPS 005 15.00 18.00 Schubert Four Impromptus, Op. 90 Clementi V. Horowitz Horowitz Plays RCAV 7753 10.00 13.00 Clementi Liszt M. Nojima Nojima Plays Liszt REF 25 15.00 18.00 Mozart A. de Larrocha Fantasy 397 RCAV 60453 15.00 18.00 (with K. 279,280) M. Ravel M. Nojima Nojima Plays Ravel REF 35 15.00 18.00 VIDEOTAPES Matsumoto 1996-10 Piano Concert PBF 5007 100.00 120.00 Seizo Azuma Solo Piano Recital EPS 107 50.00 60.00 June 28, 1995 BOOKS Author Title H. Kataoka Sensibility and Education 7.00 10.00 S. Suzuki Nurtured by Love 12.00 15.00 H. Katanka Thoughts on the Suzuki Piano School 5.00 7.00 H. Katanka My Thoughts on Piano Technique 5.00 7.00 H. Kataoka How to Teach Beginners 10.00 12.00 To order, call or FAX Piano Basics Foundation at: 916-422-2952. Sorry, we do not accept credit cards.
Recently released, on the Seiko Epson label, is a videotape of pianist SEIZO AZUMA playing a long program of mixed repertoire. Recording date: June 28, 1995
Rachmaninoff--Sonata, No. 2 in Bb minor, Op 36
Schumann--Kinderscenen, Op. 15
Liszt--Annees de pelerinage, Premiere Annee, Suisse 4. Aubord d'une source
Liszt--Hungarian Rhapsody, No.2, C# minor
Chopin--Nocturne, No.5, F# minor, Op. 15, #2
Beethoven--Sonata, No. 20, Op. 49, No.2, 2nd movement: Tempo di Minuetto
ORDER NOW! EPS 107
Member Price: $50.00
SUZUKI METHOD 10-PIANO CONCERT VIDEO TAPE
April 23, 1996
Harmony Hall, Matsumoto
The Suzuki Method 10-Piano Concert has grown to include 250 students.
Pieces performed include the Twinkles and much of the repertoire throughout the books, Brahms Hungarian Dances, Mozart Fantasia in D minor and Liszt La Campanella in G-sharp minor.
ORDER NOW! PSF 5007
Member Price: $1OO.OO
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First Online Edition: 25 September 1998
Last Revised: 4 March 2012