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Rita Burns - Workshops
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Cathy Williams Hargrave - Editions
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Linda Nakagawa, Barbara Meixner, and the Sacramento Teachers Research Group
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What can be done to develop the imagination of children? I have several ideas:
Read good books.
Watch highly artistic movies.
Go to great plays and opera.
See first-rate paintings.
Climb a mountain in the early morning, when the sun is rising; also watch the sunset.
Listen to the best recordings.
Go to concerts.
Eat the best locally grown produce and other good food.
We adults are able to differentiate between good and bad things, but children cannot. Consequently, it is up to us to make good things available to them in their daily environment.
The heart and body of a human being are one. What is in the heart is expressed by the body. We must express the feelings the composer had when we perform a piano piece. Feelings in the heart of the composer are expressed to the audience by the physical act of playing the piano.
However, it is necessary for the body to be totally natural. When the body is unnatural, full expression is hampered, no matter how hard you try to use your imagination and try to sing out the music.
So back to imagination. Unfortunately, children these days are at a disadvantage in the exercise of their own imagination. Television, a box that tells stories with pictures, takes away the need for imagination. Also, comic books use pictures to tell a story.
Communication on the Internet, with cell phones and e-mail becomes one-way, because we cannot see the other person. By contrast, when you read the mountains of literature available in every country and every language you enjoy the contents of the book through your imagination.
It is a mysterious and wonderful thing that we may nurture our own ideals by reading something over and over. When you do not give up, but forge ahead with your ideals, even if it takes a long time, your wishes will come true.
When I was 17 or 18 years old, I continued to ponder how to teach and how to play the piano. I have never, in these past 50 years, given up thinking about this. Through the years, through many ups and downs, twists and turns, I have come closer to the truth, step by step.
In Newsweek magazine there was an article about research on the human brain and a learning process called visualization. Two groups of people were studied. One group was practicing the piano. The other had no piano practice, but had just visualized it. The people in both groups were able to play the piano in the same way. The great masters (Rubinstein, Horowitz) did not like to practice. Researchers speculated that they spent their time thinking about music and thus did visualization. It must be true. Hours of poor practice get you nowhere, whereas a good imagination is very useful. Of course, you still have to do good practice. Rubinstein, at age 50, decided to become a concert pianist and practiced ten hours a day in order to become an internationally famous artist.
The development of the imagination must start from childhood. I believe that it is difficult for an adult to make up for what was missing in the early years. Let us provide the best environment that will develop our children's imaginations to their fullest. This is not only useful in music, it is useful for any of life's work.
HELP WANTED: Can you read Japanese? Would you be willing to translate articles from the Japanese newsletter once or twice a year? Small honorarium paid. Contact Renee Eckis, 9404 W. Richardson, WA 99301, 509-547-5605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd like to tell you about Suzuki piano student Megumi Sugita. At sixteen, Megumi finds herself at University Hospital in Tokyo. Suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, Megumi waits as doctors struggle to save her weakened heart.
One of my piano students in Matsumoto, Megumi had the opportunity to visit the US and attend the Suzuki Workshop in 1997. Then, six months later, she became suddenly ill. As she became weaker and sicker, doctors realized that she would need a heart transplant.
At first Megumi and her family hoped that this operation would take place in Japan. However, since there are very few heart donors in Japan, as Megumi's conditions progressively worsened, her doctors suggested the Sugita family look to American hospitals. Megumi's luck may have changed for the better. On August 8, the Denver Children's Hospital agreed to perform Megumi's heart transplant.
Megumi needs to undergo the operation as soon as possible, and plans to be making her second trip to the states in early November. However, all travel and medical bills will have to be borne by Megumi's family, and at nearly $400,000 (US), they are quite substantial. Some friends of the family formed the Save Megumi Committee and have been working to raise money for Megumi and her family.
I am writing this, on behalf of the committee, to ask for the assistance of Suzuki teachers and families everywhere. I wish you could meet this bright student as she fights her sickness. I can assure you that anything you could spare would be received with the deepest gratitude. Donations from the US are being accepted at:
Donations are tax-deductible
With deepest thanks from Megumi and the Sugita family!
It is now Friday, August 31, exactly two weeks following concert day here in Sacramento. When I think back, we began that day sleeping in until 8:30 a.m. My guests from Japan, Fusako Tazou, Michiru Ishikawa, and Hisayo Kubota, treated Renee Eckis and me to a special breakfast including Japanese pancakes, celebration rice, noodles and shrimp, miso soup, and green tea. It was not Japanese breakfast food, but it was one of the few times in two weeks we were able to take the time to cook and eat at home. We showed each other what we were planning to wear in the concert and asked advice about jewelry and shoes. It reminded me of days in college getting ready for a dance. Three of us were performing in the concert. We all felt the pressure to practice. Renee and I were adjusting footstools and conducting several groups as well. We didn't know what to be most nervous about.
Two weeks before concert day, on August 3rd, Renee flew to Sacramento from Pasco, Washington with several of her 12 students who were scheduled to play in the concert. She rented a car, which came in handy since not all of my house guests could fit into mine. Her students were met at the airport by their Sacramento hosts for two weeks. On August 6th Dee Burke from Redlands, Ca. and Michiru, Hisayo, and Fusako arrived. Rehearsals began the next day. They included most of the Americans and Japanese who traveled from outside of the Sacramento area. It was exciting to finally have groups of ten complete since we had been practicing locally two weeks prior with incomplete groups.
Our days generally were comprised of getting up, having breakfast, taking turns practicing, driving to rehearsals, and getting home between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. followed by more practice, especially Michiru who would practice sometimes until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.
One day when rehearsals began later, at 4:00 p.m., we went shopping. The grocery and drug stores were very popular. Lots of Hershey's chocolate, cold cereal, and instant hot chocolate was bought by the Japanese. They also were looking for small gifts for their students in Japan. They bought small candies in the grocery store, and we made a quick run to Pier One Imports where they found some candles to take home.
Kataoka Sensei surprised us all by announcing that she would like to give as many lessons possible to those teachers who wanted them. A sign-up sheet was quickly filled. We traveled to Linda Nakagawa's home in the mornings and observed lessons followed by a quick lunch and rehearsals until late evening. The days were long and rich. There was really no time to dwell on worrying about things. There was only time to respond.
Four days before concert day, we moved our rehearsals from the ten upright pianos at California State University at Sacramento to the Community Center grand pianos. Several more groups from Orange County joined us and our program was complete.
My personal nightmares through all of this: First, that while playing my piece I would flub up while the camera was on my fingers. Second, that the students playing the pieces I was conducting would false start, or never know when to come in. Third, I would trip walking up the steps to conduct and would forever be remembered on the video. To tell you the truth, the only thing I know for sure is that I didn't trip.
What I gained is still coming to me. All of my students are still excited by the experience of the Ten-Piano Concert. They all are extremely motivated to learn new pieces and to play in a future Ten-Piano Concert. I have listened again to my students play the pieces that they played in the concert. They now play with such confidence and pride. I am more impressed than ever before with their clear tone and good posture.
Socially, the students themselves became closer, especially the teenagers. They formed new relationships that will be long lasting. They exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers and have been talking to one another since the concert. The Sacramento parents also bonded in a new way. Everyone worked very hard, harder than they dreamed they would have to, but all agreed that it was very much worth the effort. Many expressed that best of all, this concert was better than the first. The comments from both Americans and Japanese were that the American students have improved. Really, that is all that we can hope for.
I am particularly thankful to Kataoka Sensei and the teachers who accompanied her from Japan. They constantly trained us in every aspect of producing this concert, i.e. scheduling, teaching in rehearsals, where to place the pianos, conducting, adjusting footstools, etc.
There is no better opportunity to learn as a teacher, parent, or student, than in the process of producing this concert. The next Ten-Piano Concert is planned for April 21, 2002 in Matsumoto, Japan. Save your money and go. I will see you there!
My son Brandon and I were fortunate enough to attend four weeks of Piano Basics training with Dr. Kataoka this summer! We studied with Dr. Kataoka in Louisville, KY and Irvine, CA. Six of my students also attended workshops this summer. In August, Brandon and I, along with my student Elizabeth Steinbart were in Sacramento, CA for two weeks to participate in the second Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert held in the US. We participated in the first one held in Sacramento in 1999 also. I can't begin to tell you what a memorable experience this was for us.
As a teacher I learned so much! Dr. Kataoka has unrelenting energy when she works with each group. It's truly amazing to watch her zero in on the problem and show the students exactly HOW to make the piece turn into beautiful music.
Sometimes on a Book 1 piece the problem was as simple as correcting wrong notes. Dr. Kataoka told the parents of the Aunt Rhody group that the kids were making too many note mistakes - they must concentrate when they practice - their assignment was to do LH 10 times, 5 times a day for a total of 50 times a day. On another day, the Rhody group was told to sing out the long notes so they wouldn't rush. She also told them not to accent the downbeats - just sing them out. The parents of the Arietta group were told to help their children at home because they need 100's of repetitions on each part to be able to have a good concert. Dr. Kataoka told the Chant Arabe group that they must do measures 15 -16 many times with RH only, LH only and HT because it is the hardest spot in the piece and when they are nervous, if they haven't done enough repetition that part will fall apart!
All groups worked on small sections HS with several repetitions to create the tone that was desired, for example - very soft LH accompaniment, singing out the RH melody, HT pianissimo going to a forte section and making a distinguishable difference between the two dynamic levels. Small sections were always worked on to ensure the playing reflected the time signature - 1st beat in the measure having more tone (but not an accent) and the last beat in the measure being the lightest. Dr. Kataoka told many groups to play with more spirit - faster tempo and much more tone! She asked the kids if anyone in the group was 100 years old because their piece lacked energy! After her demonstration, the kids understood and the piece was transformed! Dr. Kataoka said that students in Book 3 and above must ALWAYS practice with the metronome. She told each group what metronome speed they should practice at.
Dr. Kataoka has a great sense of humor! After giving an assignment of a certain number of repetitions of a particular passage to work on before their next rehearsal, she would tell them if they didn't do the number of repetitions she asked for they should bring a bag of candy to share with the rest of the group! She would joke and say maybe it would be good if one of the students doesn't do the reps so they would all get candy! The Mozart Turkish Rondo group was told to do an 8-measure section with LH 2500 times! As you can guess she got a lot of candy from that group! Elizabeth did it though! Dr. Kataoka said doing that small LH part 2500 times would not only make the piece better, it would improve their technique. To several groups whose tone was lacking, she would ask if they were hungry. If a few students raised their hands she would walk over to them and give them candy so they could make it through the rest of the rehearsal with a little more energy. She told them to eat before they practiced so they weren't weak and could produce good tone.
During the parent lecture in Irvine, Dr. Kataoka stated that everybody hates to practice, but everyone loves music and loves concerts because when they play well it creates great joy. She said the parents' job is to say things over and over because the brain is like a computer and their child will use the information they put in later, and become a good person. Dr. Kataoka said that art is very important in a person's life so students shouldn't quit!
For me, the workshops, the 10-Piano Concert and rehearsals create a lasting excitement about playing and teaching, thanks to Dr. Kataoka. Having my son share these experiences with me creates memories we will never forget! It's also special being with so many Suzuki Piano Basics teachers from all over the world who share the same goals and want to improve themselves to be the best they can be for their students, so we can teach them how to create beautiful music!
Attention Teachers: The deadline to register as an observer of the 10-Piano Rehearsals and Concert in Matsumoto is November 15. You still have time! Please contact Karen Hagberg, 716-244-0490 or email@example.com for more information.
Cathy Williams Hargrave
A strength of the Suzuki Piano Method is its ongoing evolution. One way it has evolved is through the new editions printed in Japan by the Zen-On Music Publishing Company and Warner Brothers Publications for the rest of the world. In these new editions, improvements have been made, but they are still not perfect. Neither were the previous editions.
The purpose of this column is to compare the Zen-On and Warner Brothers editions of the Suzuki Piano School and inform teachers of fingerings and articulations taught by Dr. Haruko Kataoka, the co-founder of the Suzuki Piano School, which do not appear in past or present editions. Bear in mind over the years, or even tomorrow, the information printed here may be obsolete if a better way is discovered.
Cradle Song is a beautiful lullaby; therefore, the melody should be very smooth. Both editions have slurs one measure long, but the phrases are all four measures long. Throughout the entire four measures, the goal is to have a singing legato tone which is indicated by the tempo marking, Andante cantabile.
The right hand of measure 9-12 is the first difference between editions. W.B. has:
3 2 Nothing 3 Nothing 2 3 2 1 4 Nothing Sol-Sol - Sol - La- Sol - Sol- Sol- Sol- Sol -Do - Do
The main point of these measures is to play beautiful legato repeated notes without stiffening the hand or playing monotonously. To keep the hand relaxed and change the tone of repeated notes, Dr. Kataoka asks students to change fingers as we have seen in the Bach Minuets. If questioned about an exact fingering for measures 9-12, I doubt that she would give us a definitive answer; however, she consistently seems to use the following:
3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 1 4 3 (or 5) Sol - Sol -Sol -La -Sol - Sol -Sol -Sol -Sol -Do- Do
3 2 1 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 Sol -Sol - Sol -La -Sol -Sol -Sol -Sol -Sol -Do -Do
Like the right hand, the left hand should also be legato for each 4-measure phrase. In both editions, the left hand fingerings are the same except for the following:
In measure 7, W.B. has the 4th finger play the first half of the third beat (Fa#). Zen-On has this note played by the 3rd finger. Dr. Kataoka teaches the W.B. version.
In measure 8,
W.B. has the chords (Sol and Ti) played by fingers 5 and 3.
Zen-On has 4 and 2.
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On version.
In measure 12,
W.B. has 5 - 1 - (3) - (1) - (3) printed.
Zen-On has 4 -(1) -(2) -(1) -(2).
Dr. Kataoka uses the Zen-On fingering.
In the last measure, measure 16,
W.B. prints the fingering of the chords (Do and Mi) as 5 and 3.
Zen-On has them played with 4 and 2.
Dr. Kataoka teaches the Zen-On version.
The next installment of this column will discuss Minuet and Arietta by Mozart.
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First Online Edition: 11 December 2001
Last Revised: 8 March 2012