Volume 3.1, January/February 1998

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.



by Dr. Haruko Kataoka

We often assume that twins, because they look so much alike, are the same in every way.

Rudy and Jamie were twin boys with identical gleams in their eyes that I met in a summer workshop. They were healthy, energetic boys who had just turned five and were wearing matching shirts of differing colors.

The piano lesson started with Rudy. His mother is very conscientious and his regular teacher is a good teacher, so his posture and hand position from the preparatory position were perfect and natural. He played Twinkle very well. The finger movement from the number one, thumb, to the number five finger was so good that his playing could be called perfect.

He was also able to play Cuckoo and Good-bye to Winter with his right hand very clearly.

Being able to study with Rudy I could clearly see his personality, as if I could take him in my hand (and open him up). He is a very calm, steady personality. He would calmly try to listen and understand what I said and would patiently look towards me and give me an expression that would show his comprehension. After that, he would start playing. He was calm and patient, but a very bright child.

Next, was Jamie's turn. As I wrote earlier, his mother and teacher are the best so everything was fine. However, he was so mentally quick and alert, if I said something he would start doing it immediately. That quickness was something to see. Compared to Rudy who was still playing with only his right hand, Jamie was able to play most pieces in Book 1 with both hands and had just begun Book 2.

People, in whatever they do, do so with the personality traits that they were born with. Even if those around them try to make them change it is not something that can be forced. Trying to force change will cause them to go in a bad direction. The personality traits with which we are born cannot be changed by ourselves so if those around us try to demand us to change, we will not be able to freely express our strengths.

I said to their mother, "These children appear to be very much alike, but Rudy takes his time with everything and takes action calmly and Jamie will do everything very quickly. They have totally different personalities, don't they?" Their mother answered in the following way: "Exactly, so I have been trying to teach each in a way that fits their individual personality." This is a wonderful thing!

With these two being twins, they were born on the same day and they are being raised in the same way, so it is easy for anyone to see that they have totally different personalities, but in the case of other siblings, being apart in age, parents end up comparing the two and demanding the same from both. Especially in Japan where the overwhelming majority is of one race, it seems as if everyone is being forced to be the same.

One of the beauties of nature is that whenever a person is born, each and everyone is given a different personality. Can you imagine this? What kind of society would we have if everyone had exactly the same personality? Because we have short tempered people, very patient people, action oriented people, quiet reflective people, and so on, we have countless differences and the world is put together in away that is complex and interesting so that we can go through our whole life without getting bored.

Parents, out of their love for their children want them to develop something that they may be lacking. As a result, they may demand them to do this or to do that. The child may persevere, but having something demanded of them that they may not be suited to do, they will experience anxiety and will not only be unable to do that which is being demanded, but will also become unable to do that for which they are suited. This will result in a waste of energy and source of fatigue.

So what should we do? The parents should look at the child's strong points (in regard to their personality), such as being calm and patient, and accept and praise those qualities. People when accepted and praised by their parents will be psychologically sound and will be able to do good work. Good education for children requires many years and months. Try to do this everyday. The parent must accept and teach (the child) how to strive to use that personality in a positive way. Without accepting that child's personality and comparing the child to others by saying, "Get perfect scores," or "Hurry and memorize Book 4," will only lead to putting on the brakes [slowing the child's development.]

Acceptance will lead to the child being at peace with himself so that they can fully utilize their strengths and grow to become a person who is a benefit to the world.

Reprinted from the Newsletter at the
Matsumoto Piano Teachers Association
of the Talent Education Research Institute
Vol.4, No.1, August 25, 1994
Illustration by Julie Kataoka
Translation by Rev. Ken Fujimoto



by Karen Hagberg

This was the sixth time I have had the privilege of attending the 10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto. It is hard to believe that so much time has elapsed since I heard the first one in 1988. At that time, I had recently arrived in Matsumoto at the beginning of my 3 1/2-year stay there. The concert then, I remember, was completely mind-boggling. I simply could not fathom how one teacher could produce enough excellent students to perform such a concert. Nor could I understand how piano students, no matter how good they were, could learn to play so completely together. I remember marveling at the precision of the frills and 16th-note passages.

Before hearing the first concert, I had, of course, seen videotapes of previous concerts at Dr. Kataoka's workshops the previous summer. I decided to go to Japan to study long-term partly on the basis of watching those videotapes. Nothing had prepared me, however, for the experience of the live sound that the concert produces. This is truly indescribable. I marvel at it each and every time.

The audience was reminded, in opening remarks, that the students were all playing pieces they had learned long before and which had been practiced again just for the concert. The pieces students study to such a high degree, it was said, will become unforgettable memories which will stay with them throughout their lives.

The most exciting aspect of this year's concert was its international flavor, with twenty-six students from the United States and Singapore participating and, in the audience, over twenty foreign parents and eighteen foreign teachers, including those from Singapore, the U.S. and Holland. Our Japanese hosts went out of their way not only to house all of these visitors, but to arrange for social activities and sightseeing as well. It was an outstanding experience for all of us.

Mrs. Suzuki was a honored guest. She spoke with some of us visiting teachers at the conclusion of the concert and expressed her delight that so many of us had made the trip to Matsumoto to participate, and also praised the overall quality of the performance.

This year, the Matsumoto piano teachers decided, instead of selling tickets to the concert, to encourage people to donate money to the UNICEF children's fund. A representative of UNICEF accepted $11,000 in donations at the beginning of the concert. The mayor of Matsumoto gave speech. It was truly gala affair.

The final two dazzling pieces in the program, Chopin's Nocturne in Eb major, Op. 9, no.2 and his Revolutionary Etude, were performed by students and young teachers who were joined by this year's special guest, Reina Matsuyama, a former student of Dr. Kataoka who is presently launching her career as a professional concert pianist.

Everyone who had heard previous concerts agrees that these events just keep getting better and better. I urge all teachers to order the videotape, which will open up all kinds of possibilities for you and your students. And think about attending the next concert in the spring of 1999.


by Rita Burns

They worked on the basics and tone. That sounds so silly, but it was multiple piano rehearsals like I have never seen or experienced. We have done 5-Piano Concerts in Sacramento, and are actually about to do one in January. My rehearsals have primarily been getting five people to play simultaneously. If their tone and rhythm and breathing are good, they will play together!

I was impressed by the Japanese parents' attitude and responsiveness for the 10-Piano rehearsals. Future rehearsal times were announced at the end of each rehearsal with no complaints from parents. Usually everyone showed up for rehearsal on time.

I appreciated even more the genius and relentless devotion to excellence that Kataoka Sensei demonstrated. The level of intensity and tone changed whenever she became involved. And she was always involved.


I was in an empty house with two other American teachers, therefore we were not immersed into the Japanese culture, since we were by ourselves and did our own cooking. But we were not forgotten. Kataoka Sensei herself came late one evening with gifts of wonderful bread her daughter Julie had brought, and delicious Japanese apples. Later, at a rehearsal, we were quietly given a bag of beautiful persimmons. Needless to say, we enjoyed all of her gifts. We were so surprised to see her after a long and exhausting rehearsal day.

Every Japanese person we encountered was open and willing to help us any way they could. If we ran into a "snag" getting train tickets, choosing a meal in a restaurant, shopping, or anywhere, they did everything possible to help us. I only wish we Americans could say the same about ourselves.

I was also impressed with the Japanese parents' attentiveness and devotion to their children's education and the positive respect they had for their teachers.


The hall was smaller than I expected, but the sound was bigger. After two weeks, I started becoming used to a different standard of sound, and could sometimes tell the difference if the sound was below that standard.

In conclusion, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. It was a wonderful learning experience. The basics were demonstrated clearly in every rehearsal. I will be back.

Thank you to all of the Japanese hosts and teachers who attended to our every need. Please come to the U.S. so that we may repay you.


"What was your most unusual experience?


My homestay family, the Sakai's took me to a Korean restaurant. We sat around a low table and ordered drinks. Then the first appetizer appeared. It was raw ground beef with a raw egg on top. I just sipped my drink as the others ate it. Then, the second appetizer came. I thought it was cooked meat because the color was dark brown, but it turned out to be raw beef intestines!! So I just kept sipping. Then the main course came. It was on two big plates and was mostly raw meat. I was getting very worried, but then the waitress brought a small barbecue grill to the table. We cooked our own food right there. I ate a lot! But I'll never forget the sight of raw cow tongue.
Luke Rickford (13), Sunnyvale, CA

The waiters and waitresses in the restaurant were so polite that I was actually afraid. I am a very indifferent person and like to be treated that way, but the politeness really makes me feel awkward.
Li Kai Han (16), Singapore

If you want the bathroom, you have to ask for the toilet. And the toilets are different They are down on the floor, it's very weird!
Emily Ruas (9), Florida

The strangest of all seafood is octopus. It looks so sickening! Purple suckers everywhere.
Lisa Ruas(12), Florida

At the gas station all the hoses were hanging down above our heads. It was really cool and convenient.
Kathleen Jackura (13), New York

Our host was going to take us swimming, but the pool was closed. We ended up at a hot spring. All the people have to be naked. It was very and most embarrassing.
Ong Yee Pin (16), Singapore and Li Kai Yen (15), Singapore

I have never seen so many Japanese signs in all my life. Before I came to Japan, I never liked rice. Now I eat rice every day. I also live in the most beautiful house in all Japan.
Jonathan Rosa (5), Kentucky

I went to a Japanese school. For lunch there was curried rice, yogurt, veggies, milk--and, what was the other stuff?? It was cuttlefish!!!!! YUCK!!
Madeline Klink (10), California

Heated toilet seat.
Tristan Loo (8), Singapore

The amazing thing about Matsumoto is that it seems so much like Rochester, New York, my home town.
Stephen Voris (10), New York

The wasabi ice cream was better than I expected.
Jay Voris (7), New York

Using the toilet. It had automatic everything: an automatic light that turns on when you open the door, a heated seat, and a curious panel to the side of the seat that both cleans you and dries you off after you go.
Erik Augereau (14), Florida

When I arrived late at my homestay, there was a little girl sleeping under a table. I thought that was very unusual. Later, I learned about the kotatsu and that people often sleep under it.
Erin Bigelow (18), California

Going to the Attsuchan Sushi Bar, where all kinds of sushi came around and around in a circle.
Tyler DeLaney (5), Kentucky


The kotatsu: a great invention for cold winter evenings.
Donna Lawrence (mother), Florida

Riding in a car. The roads are small alley ways. Cars suddenly appear from driveway-sized streets. These 'driveways' turn out to be the preferred way to get from point A to point B. Collisions are avoided by inches many times each day. The narrow roads are shared by bicyclists and pedestrians.
Buying gas. As soon as your car enters the gas station, you are greeted by an attendant who directs you to the appropriate gas pump. Once there, a number of additional attendants descend to clean your windows and pump the gas. A clean towel is offered to the driver in order to clean the dashboard. After the gas has been pumped, an attendant will direct the driver onto the street. If necessary, the attendant will direct oncoming traffic in order to permit the customer to drive away with minimal fuss. All of this service is accompanied by the ever-present Japanese bowing, etc.
Bruce Voris (father), New York

Seeing my son eat smoked fish, salad and rice for breakfast and enjoying it!!"
Susan Lindsay (mother), Florida

Hot tea with milk in a can from a machine.
Wendy Ng (mother), New York

Being illiterate. I am so happy whenever I see a word I recognize. This experience has made me want to help someone learn to read and also to pay more attention to the needs of visitors in my country. It has also made me fully understand that music is the international language of the heart which you do not need to read to understand and to appreciate. One cannot be illiterate in the music of the heart.
Arue Moore (mother), Georgia

Children in Japan are more relaxed and happy.
Betsy Ruas (mother), Florida


This was the first time that an American mother visited my house, but we had had a wonderful time talking together about children and about piano. Mothers have the same feelings no matter what country they are from. We talked by using dictionaries: mine was Japanese to English, and hers was English to Japanese.
Kinuyo Ohwa (mother), Shiojiri, Nagano Prefecture

The American father cleans up right away after they finish eating. He cleans up the crumbs on the floor and does the dishes and also the laundry! I was so impressed with his housework that I took a picture of him without thinking!
Chika Kawakami (mother), Ina, Nagano Prefecture

The Japanese students said things like, "How are you?" "Nice to meet you! and "How old are you?" to our guest. I was surprised that we had progressed so much. In my day there was not so much communication with foreigners. I admire our modern children.
Yoshiko Nitta (mother), Matsumoto City

Japanese and American parents are just the same. When we travel to another country, the children cling to their parents more than usual, and the parents worry too much about the children. Here in Matsumoto, the visiting mother is always calling her child on the phone to see that she is OK. I think it's better if our children travel without us!
Toshie Yokoyama (mother), Matsumoto City

We took our American visitor, Ashley, to the Mos Burger shop. She does not like chili sauce and she tried to tell the clerk not to put chili sauce on her hamburger. He didn't understand, so she asked me to tell him. But we all thought she was saying "cherry sauce!!" We didn't understand at all, but it was OK because she seemed to like the food and ate a lot.
Kazuyo Mimura (mother), Matsumota City

Before our guest arrived, we thought he was a girl! We were very surprised when he turned out to be a boy. He is very cute. He drinks lots of milk. It is customary for children to wash their hands after going to the toilet here in Japan. I tried to remind our American guest to wash his hands, but he thought I meant that he should shake hands!! So he shook my hand!!!!
Noriko Nakamura (mother), Hotaka, Nagano Prefecture

The 18-year-old boy who stayed with us was so cute and smart and cool that I wanted my own child to leave! I also wanted my husband to leave! When I first spoke with our visitor it was love at first sight, I was so deeply in love with him that it made me very upset.
Yukika Momose (mother), Matsumoto City

My husband was very happy that we were going to have American guests. He bought lots of English tapes and reference books and studied way into the night for weeks as if he were studying for a big exam. When our guests arrived, however, he was quite useless. Not only did he not speak any English, he spoke no Japanese either!!
After rehearsals when we went home, my mother greeted our guests in Japanese: "0-kaeri nasai." She had been polishing the floor in the hallway and wanted to tell the guests to be careful and not to slip on the clean floor. But her English is not so good, so all she could do was point to the floor and say, "This is tsuru-tsuru (slippery)!"
Rie Kimura (teacher), Malsumoto City

I overheard my children having this conversation:
Brother: I heard mom talking in her sleep last night.
Sister: What was she saying??
Brother: She was speaking English!
Naoka Uchiyama (mother), Hotaka, Nagana Prefecture

For a whole week before our guests arrived, my mother and I cleaned the house. The whole house was a lot cleaner than it would have been if they were not coming. We were happy. We communicated using a dictionary. Our guests were very easy. They tried all kinds of new food and new ways of doing things. We had no problems.
Midori Momose (mother), Matsumoto City


Kulau: Sonatina, Opus 55, Number 1, Vivace

by Dr. Haruko Kataoka

This piece is rich in variety. In a way it is an easy piece to play and to enjoy after having learned the first movement which consists of almost continuous legato from beginning to end.

When starting a new piece, the first thing to be careful about, as I always say, is the time signature. This piece is in 3/8 time. With eighth notes as the basic beat, this piece has a much lighter feeling than 3/4.

The first four-measure phrase begins with the third beat [an upbeat]. Play the sixteenth notes on E and C lightly and beautifully, and the first G with the thumb as a steady first beat, because this note sets the rhythm after the upbeat. Play both staccatos lightly and beautifully with the thumb moving naturally sideways, taking the notes.

Since the left-hand chords are the accompaniment, play them very softly. Played in this way, we may enjoy the G in the melody with beautiful harmony. Whenever teaching chords, always have students practice making the solo tone sing out over the quiet accompaniment so that they may learn to hear good harmony. Carefully teach the quarter-note chord in measure 4 in this way at the end of the first phrase.

The sixteenth-note passage in the right hand in measures 4-8 is the most technically difficult place in this piece. The first three notes constitute a descending arpeggio. This must be played with the hand in one position [i.e. do not drop the wrist when playing the thumb]. Make sure to make a legato connection between the B and the high A. In order to play the A, prepare the fifth finger by holding it in a ready position and then play a good tone as you bring your thumb under your hand.

Next we have a descending scale. Here we must pay attention to balance. When the fourth finger crosses over the thumb, the hand should be soft, and the palm should move over the thumb without changing its position. Do not twist the palm.

The best way to practice this passage is to practice the right hand alone here by holding the first notes in measures 5,6 & 7 with a deep, long, singing tone followed by five light and soft notes played evenly and more quickly. This should be done 20-30 times a day. This practice is not for learning notes or fingerings, it is for balance. This 16th-note legato phrase must be sung out beautifully.

The left-hand chord in measures 5-6 must be very stable because it must sound throughout two entire measures. This chord may be considered a pillar upon which the right-hand melody rests. In contrast, the chords in measure 7 are light and staccato followed by a firm quarter note in measure 8.

As for the chords in measure 17 and in similar measures, teach students to play the harmony beautifully, to play the three eighth notes in a light, triple time, and to sound a rich tone on the longer chord in the following measure. As always, if the solo tone is sung out and the accompaniment is kept soft in relation to the solo, beautiful chords are produced.

Practice measures 25-32 hands alone. Half of the notes in the right hand are played with the third finger on a black key. Teach students always to play these notes from above the key. If they do not pay attention to this, most of them will play by pressing down on the black keys. Beautiful legato can be produced if we move the third finger from above and be sure to move the thumb sideways.

In order to be able to play measures 32-36 in the right hand with good legato and rhythm, this passage must be practiced slowly with many repetitions.

The first theme returns on the third beat in measure 36. The theme is stated forte and then repeated an octave higher piano. This is a good chance to teach pianissimo. Teach students to play very softly, lightly and beautifully here.

In measures 52-68, there is an emotional song. Fully sing out (exhale) on the long first beats. Practice playing the left hand very, very quietly.

There is a bridge passage in measure 68-76 which returns us to the first theme. Play this rhythmically. Sing the melody in measure 72-76.

The end of the piece is the same as the beginning with different harmony after measure 84. The practice is the same.

The coda of the piece begins in measure 104. Measures 104-106 are marked forte, but the upbeats in 16th-notes should be played lightly. Express the forte on the first beats of measures 105-106. Never play all the notes with the same, big tone.

There is a beautiful melody from the third beat in measures 106 to 108. Sing it out quietly. Adjust the tone of the left hand to be under the right-hand melody.

The same pattern is repeated an octave higher in measures 108-112. In the last four measures of the piece, play the triplet 16th notes (on the upbeat) legato and quietly, followed by a fortissimo quarter note. The second and third beats in measure 115 should be light and staccato. Play the final chord with a good, solid tone.



Grace Baugh-Bennett, Director

School of Music, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292
PHONE: (502)8520537 FAX: (502)423-0615 EMAIL:



Robin Blankenship and Leah Brammer, Directors

2518 Country Lake Circle, Powder Springs, GA 30073
PHONE: (770) 943-1218 FAX: (770) 992-2376 EMAIL:



Dr. Karen Hagberg, Director

8 Prince Street, Rochester, NY 14607
PHONE: (716)2440490 FAX: (716)244-3542 EMAIL:


Linda Nakagawa, Director

242 River Acres Drive Sacramento, CA 95831
PHONE/FAX: (916) 422-2952 EMAIL:

1999 Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert: Looking Ahead

Those of us who attended this year's concert in Matsumoto, and who are already excited about returning for the next one, suddenly realized that it is not too early to begin planning for it! The concert program is set about nine months ahead, which means that visiting students must be able to state their intentions to come by the end of this summer and teachers wishing to participate can begin making plans to attend the summer workshops.

Dr. Kataoka sends this message: Students should work hard if they have any intention of going to the next 10-Piano Concert. And they should begin working NOW! Information regarding the next 10-Piano Concert will be available from Matsumoto in the Spring of 1998. Congratulations to all who participated this year!

The staff of Piano Basics Foundation Newsletter would like to thank all who have submitted articles. We especially want to thank Dr. Kataoka and the Matsumoto teachers for the reprints from the Matsumoto Newsletter, Julie Kataoka for permission to use her original drawings (some of which appear online) along with the articles, and Rev. Ken Fujimoto for his translations.

We wish each of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR and THANK YOU for being a part of
Piano Basics Foundation.

Deadline for March/April issue: February 15
P.O. Box 342, Yachats, OR 97498-0342
Phone: (541)547-4821, FAX: (541)547-4829

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, web editor for Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News.

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First Online Edition: 7 September 1998
Last Revised: 4 March 2012