Volume 7.4, July/August 2002

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.

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News

Editors and Layout
Dr. Karen Hagberg and Cheryl Kraft

Web Editor
Kenneth Wilburn

Shelley Sparks
Six Color Photos from This Issue

Hard Copy Illustrations
Juri Kataoka

Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops
Renee Eckis - Translation Coordinator
Cathy Williams Hargrave - Editions

Production and Distribution
Linda Nakagawa, Barbara Meixner, and the Sacramento Teachers Research Group

Send Articles to:
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation
P.O. Box 342, Yachats, OR 97498
Fax: 541-547-4829

Linda Nakagawa
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA, USA 95831
Phone: 916-422-2952

Deadline for Next Issue: August 15

A Much Better Environment!

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka

A nine-year-old student recently played the two Minuets of Bach. As I observed her carefully, I could see that her playing style was somehow unnatural.

She held her shoulders up somewhat, but she was well taught, she practices well, and so she is a very good student.

Then I realized that the problem was in the way she was sitting on the chair. Her thigh was slanted down too far so that the weight of her upper body went down toward her legs (her center of gravity was lower than it should be), making her balance unstable. She had adjusted to this instability by raising her shoulders. Then I adjusted the footstool a little higher and let her upper body sit back far enough on the chair. At that point her sound became much richer. The people hearing this were surprised, and I was surprised, too.

I am always learning in this way. When we teach children, the first and most important thing is the adjustment of the chair and the footstool. This determines the way a student uses her body, so it is very important. Despite this, teachers, myself included, sometimes allow students to play without the right footstool, especially when we are tired and are sick of adjusting it.

Children are not responsible for anything. They cannot choose their environment on their own... We adults must make the effort to provide them with a better environment.

Translated by Michiko Katayama
Edited by Dr. Karen Hagberg
Hard Copy Cartoons Illustrated by Juli Kataoka
From Matsumoto Piano Newsletter
Volume 11, No. 11, 1 April 2002

Comments From The Ten Piano Concert In Japan

By Rita Burns
Carmichael, California
April 21, 2002

It was another wonderful experience in Japan. Most of the twenty-two teachers and twenty-two students arrived in Japan on April 5 and went home April 22 after the concert on the previous day.

The schedule was full soon after we arrived. Dr. Kataoka was very generous and gave each visiting teacher a lesson. The students who participated in the concert also had lessons either with Dr. Kataoka or a resident Japanese teacher.

On weekdays, the rehearsals started between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. since most of the Japanese students were in school. They usually ended at 9:00 p.m. when we had to be out of the rehearsal building. On weekends the rehearsal days were longer, starting in the late morning and ending in the evening.

The weather was a little colder and more rainy than in previous springs, but there were a few beautiful sunny days. The cherry blossoms were still blooming in various shades of pink and white.

I think I can speak for all of the students and teachers who traveled to Japan that our hosts were generous and gracious. There were many late night dinners after our hosts had worked long days. The people of Japan have again demonstrated a generous spirit.

Toward the end of our stay, and before the concert, I asked the participating students to answer three questions about their time in Japan.

The following are a few of their answers:

1. How are you and the Japanese alike?

2. What was different in Japan compared to the U.S.? 3. What did you learn in Japan?

The following questions were answered by visiting teachers in Japan:

1. What was an interesting experience you had while in Japan?

2. What will you change in your studio when you return to the states? You can probably ascertain from the teachers' comments what was emphasized in their lessons. There are a few "new ideas" to me that I observed while watching rehearsals and lessons. They are:

  1. When rehearsing with students, have available an 11th piano for the teacher to demonstrate during rehearsals. (Therefore, if you are having a 4 piano concert, have 5 pianos, etc.)

  2. If you are an adult teacher and your feet cannot touch the floor when sitting at the piano, wear high heels, don't use a footstool. If you are a teacher training teachers have high heels available for this purpose.

  3. Think about using the Ten Piano Concert in Sacramento, California as a stepping stone for a student to experience before going to Japan.

  4. When rehearsing with students in a multiple piano concert, just as when teaching an individual lesson, you have to demonstrate good sound by playing, not talking.
Thank you to all of the teachers and students who generously answered the questions and returned them to me. Your comments are interesting and educational.

I will see you all this summer at a workshop and again in Japan in 2003.

Toni Hemming

The Suzuki Piano Basics community mourns the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Toni Hemming, of Tacoma, Washington who passed away in April of this year due to complications from cancer treatments. Toni kept up with her twenty students until she passed away, and they continue to study with a piano basics Suzuki teacher in Tacoma, Washington. Toni is remembered by all as a person who never met a stranger and when asked what he remembered most about her, an eight year old student immediately replied, "She never gave up on me."

When Will YOU Go to Matsumoto?

By Karen Hagberg
Rochester, New York
April 21, 2002

If you are a teacher who has never gone to Matsumoto to observe the rehearsals and the 10- Piano Concert, doesn't it make you want to go when you read about the latest one? It is truly a unique learning experience, and teachers who are serious about studying Suzuki Piano Basics are always welcome.

A major reason to produce such concerts is to give us teachers the opportunity for ongoing training. Teaching a given piece never seems quite so clear and obvious as it does during rehearsals for a multi-piano concert.

Preparing one's own student(s) to participate in a big event like this is an even higher level of participation, during which you can learn even more than is possible from observation alone. Think about what a wonderful opportunity it would be for one of your students to go to Japan to perform.

As the teacher, you can start now to lay the groundwork for your future study in Japan. More and more teachers from other countries want to participate in the Matsumoto concert, and there is a limit to the number of visiting students who may be accommodated as guest players. How can you best get ready and have a student accepted to perform?

First, because the goal of the concert is ongoing teacher training, begin to attend summer workshops with Dr. Kataoka regularly if you do not already do so. Bring students to the workshops for lessons with her. It is best for students to have had a lesson with Dr. Kataoka before going, but most important is that the teacher is studying regularly. Teachers and students should be aware of what to expect before they make the trip to Japan.

Second, enroll the student first in the Sacramento 10-Piano Concert (next one to be held in August 2003). Teachers report that they can learn much more at the Sacramento concert for two reasons. Because American students are less developed than the Japanese students, rehearsals begin at a level which we can all fully understand. In addition, there is no language barrier, since the rehearsals are conducted in English.

In the case of both concerts, students will need to be in residence for rehearsals for about 2 1/2 weeks with their teachers.

You may always attend either concert without students so that you can study the event first on your own. This is also important preparation.

The next Matsumoto concert will be held in the late fall of 2003 (just 3 months after Sacramento). The concerts in Japan are on an 18-month rotation schedule. The concerts in Sacramento are in August, every other year. It is not too early to open up your calendar and decide which events you can attend. Watch for announcements and enrollment instructions in this newsletter. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming 10-Piano Concert!

The 10-Piano Concert

By Joseph Randazzo
Orange, California

Hello, I am Joseph Randazzo and I am 14 years old. This is my second time coming to Japan to play in the 10 Piano Concert. Although this will regrettably be my last trip here, I've learned very much and have gained much experience. Learning to play a piece better, which was always the main goal of the trip, was constantly fun to do. After getting used to the hundreds of times a day practices for each part, it became fun to finally have all 10 pianos play together beautifully and especially to hear myself improve as well.

As well as learning the piano, it was fun to travel to Japan all together. In staying at the house of a great home-stay family, I learned the Japanese way of life, such as their food, customs, and even their schools. Another thing in Japan that I do, one of my favorites, is to meet new people. I look forward to going to see friends I have met a day, a week, and 18 months ago! Being a young, active, social teenager, I really enjoy meeting and talking to people at rehearsals, places where we go sight-seeing together, the amusement park, the concert, and at the banquet.

All together, I have gained very much in coming to the 10 Piano Concert in Japan, and would like to thank Dr. Kataoka for giving me such a great opportunity such as this. And as for other students. I hope they have learned and enjoyed this experience as much as I have. Thank you very much for your time.

(In Japanese) Thank you Kataoka Sensei. I will always remember how much I enjoyed this trip. Arigato gozai mashita!

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First Online Edition: 31 August 2002
Last Revised: 8 March 2012