The Words of the Tashiro Family
Nurturing Love Through Music
Children Become Brighter Through Playing an Instrument
by Mary Jane Yasuko Tashiro-Tarrytown, NY
One Mind Focus, written by True Father with bold Chinese characters, hanging on the wall at East Garden, has a very deep meaning. To have this quality at a moment's notice may be like imagining what it is to uncover the true potential of our pure original selves. We are all like an uncut gem that is being asked to be revealed. True Father urged many times for the blessed children to study an instrument. To practice repeatedly to master an instrument is like cutting away at a stone by hand until the beautiful facets sparkle as in a diamond. Tests have proven that an activity as playing an instrument requires intense focus; therefore, it stimulates the brain cells to work at an optimum level. Why then don't more children master this art? Most people would answer, "Because our children don't have talent". Unfortunately, it takes more than just talent.
When True Mother was a young girl, one of her desires was to take piano lessons but because of her difficult circumstances, she could not do what her heart desired. It was natural that she wanted to give all her children this opportunity. When I arrived at East Garden in 1986, Mother gave me the mission of teaching Sun Jin-nim and Kwon Jin-nim piano lessons. They had been studying a few years with other teachers, but after hearing them play, I knew they had some ways to go before piano would became a fun thing to do. Sun Jin-nim, who was 11 at the time, understood my explanation of technique to develop freedom in playing. Kwon Jin-nim seemed to have some facility and was brimming with talent. The problem was both of them had difficulty reading notes. When going to the music store, I looked for music that was fairly easy to play as well as satisfying to their taste. In the classics, there were a few Bach pieces that they liked and were within their piano capability, but most of the music that would help develop their coordination skills, were few and far between. Before too much time elapsed, I found I was very unsuccessful in helping them read notes without their getting frustrated. Mostly this was so because they had to remember too many notes at once to be able to play their intermediate level music. I finally concluded that the note reading habit has to be established in the beginning stages of learning piano. Sun Jin-nim and Kwon Jin-nim would be prone to neglect this area only because they caught the melody quickly through listening because they were born with what the musicians call a "good ear".
Hyung Jin-nim and Jeung Jin-nim's instrument was the violin. They, being also blessed with "good ears" and taking the Suzuki method that emphasized ear training rather than note reading, were also in need of help. They had the advantage of age on their side. They were young enough (6 and 8 yrs. old) that I might have some success teaching them note reading via the piano The first thing I did was compose a song that they could sing to learn the "nasty notes!" that eluded them. This was the start of composing many pieces that eventually I would publish. The first book called 21 Winners, Op. 10 for Beginners was published, using the precious "seed' money that True Parents presented to me in 1987 after Shin Won's birth. True Father asked me to continue to publish more books. I eagerly took on the task to complete and publish 74 more piano solos. Father's idea at that time was that I do this so that eventually, it will go out to the whole world. What an inspiring idea that was!
The opportunity for trying a different and more simplified way of teaching would occur to me with teaching the True Grandchildren. With Shin Myung requesting to take lessons, I introduced the piano keyboard to him by pointing out only 5 alphabet letter keys located in the middle of the piano. They were Middle C, D, E, F, and G. They were given names as follows: cat, do-nut, elephant, fish and "good", meaning "Good, you now know 5 keys!" I made standing billboard style cards with the animals etc. pasted on them and he placed them on the proper keys.
After he knew the keys well, I presented him with a sheet of paper divided into 8 squares. I wrote a song choosing, for the right hand, any of the 5 alphabet letters mentioned above and for the left thumb, the G below middle C. With the right hand letters written "high" inside the square and the left hand note "low" in the square, there was no confusion. Because most children are right handed, they can manage to play any of the 5 notes without too much problem. The left hand being more awkward, playing with only the left thumb would give their playing the "balance" necessary to help them in their coordination of both hands for future playing. I found his facility developed rapidly because he was focused only on one thing. That was connecting the specific alphabet letter to the piano key that had that name.
By Shim Myung having to do the "see-saw" action from right hand to left hand, he was able to achieve the "relaxation technique" more quickly. I was happy that this particular range in the piano was easy for him to sing. Rhythm by singing became a part of his whole being when the half notes became "squat notes, the quarter notes "walk" notes, the eighth notes "running" and the whole notes "touch the bench" notes or "sit down" if itís at the end of the song. In this way, Shin Myung was able to have fun by thoroughly understanding the two very important aspects of the early stages of playing piano, relaxation technique and counting. His hands began to look as if they were doing a dance, rhythmically bouncing back and forth. Thus, the book, Music Letter Names, was born.
The next big step was not impossible when I introduced note reading through the book, NOTES, Our Friends, Op. 19. It was easy to transfer his playing skills in C position to reading the notes on the music staff in the same C position. He surprised himself when he could apply the written notes to his playing so quickly. His parents were also surprised at his sudden progress. If he ever forgot the name of the notes, I would start singing the Note Song and he would finish the song with me and proceed to tell me the correct notes without missing a beat. This is how easy it is for children to latch on to something difficult when it is through song.
Shin Won who had been studying with a Russian teacher before he came to me was playing intermediate level music at the time he bruised his left "pinkie" playing ball. I decided to use this time to test his sight-reading through these simple 5 finger C position songs. later, his sincere comment was, "This book is simple and enjoyable!" This was a sign that signaled to me that many children would have the same reaction. We don't know what kind of gem we can uncover unless we give every child a chance to become successful in the early stages so he can make a decision whether he wants to continue piano or not. Note reading should be an adventure of meeting new friends and looking forward to their becoming their best friends. When I heard that my student's younger sisters or brothers were dancing and singing with the music, I began to see that this music was infectious. Their relaxation approach imbued rhythm to the music and their note reading gave them confidence. My plan was taking "root".
The next question was how can I initiate enthusiasm from teachers to incorporate this kind of teaching? They could use my books and help their students from "alphabet letter reading" to "note reading" but they wouldn't know how to teach them the "relaxation technique". If this isn't taught in the early years, they would develop what the professionals call, pianists' syndrome; their fingers would be "tight" and their rhythm "stilted". With this kind of emergency, I thought I must make a video. One day, a mother, who was in my choir and knew how to play piano, asked me to teach her daughter. My schedule was filled up; however, I knew I could not refuse her. My heart responded to her because she would always tell me how much she loved music, so much so that she couldn't stop singing a song I had composed for the choir. Trying to solve the problem of already having too many students, I hoped that I could train her to be my future teacher under me. I told her I would teach her daughter on the condition that she would videotape the lessons, study my teaching style and eventually take over teaching her daughter. She happily agreed.
As we started working together, I was surprised she was so creative with the camera angles. I found her comments helpful for improving the quality of the video. She, in turn, was so enraptured with any ideas that had to do with my music dreams that she would literally force me to stay for lunch so she could hear more. It was a wonderful creative time for me with her by my side. For the introduction to be aesthetically beautiful, she took scenes of Mother's rose garden in full bloom and the majestic pine trees at East Garden. I was anticipating making more videos after we finished the first one because this "tool for teaching" is a wonderful way to quickly spread this kind of teaching. I taped a song called, Circle of Love which I had composed for Sun Jin-nim and this provided the background music for this opening scenery. When I donated a set of my music and this completed video to the music director of Hackley school, she was elated to understand what was wrong with her piano technique by watching this video. I wanted to share this victory with my devoted camera lady and friend, but Heavenly Father took her to Spirit world before I could do so.
The ultimate testing of my theory of teaching came with Shin Yeon. I was teaching Shin Eh and Shin Won in the music room at East Garden when Shin Yeon, taken by their music making, would come in every week, begging to also be taught. At that time, she was not yet 6 years old. After spending a few minutes with her, I realized she needed a little more time to physically develop the coordination demands of playing the piano. I told her to wait until she was 7; however, I explained I would spend 5 minutes every week just to teach her the "letter names" of the piano keys and the "relaxation" feeling. She was happy just for a "tidbit" of what piano was about. As she approached her 7th birthday, I knew that she understood everything I was saying because she is a very bright girl, but she still could not play without fumbling. At that time, everything I wrote had to be xeroxed and one song, Snowflakes was her downfall. She couldn't handle it and so was willing to wait a little longer. My conclusion was that maybe she would be better off pursuing sports or some other instrument.
In the fall of that same year, I hoped Shin Yeon would have forgotten about piano but when I saw her, she asked again about lessons. I really was moved that she was so persistent. To teach her on a regular basis was difficult because suddenly she would have to take a trip with either True Parents or her father, so I was not expecting her to do too well. To my amazement, she took off like a bird with wings fully developed. Her brain had finally connected to her fingers! The astonishment on her face was something I will always remember. She could now play Snowflakes without any problem. From that day on, whether she was sick with a fever or had just come back from a trip and was tired, she came to her lesson and was willing to even come twice a week to "make up". Her "relaxation approach" is so natural and "right" that this sound which I call the "window into one's soul", makes her piano playing very pleasing to everyone who hears her. There is a reason that I went into such detail about Shin Yeon. She proved to me again that 7 years old is the most advantageous year to start piano lessons. To find out more about the history behind my conclusions, please read my book, Piano Teaching with Love, Op. 15. I outline what the 3 age groups are for optimum natural development of the children's skills in piano playing. Of course, I hope you understand that there are always exceptions to the rule, possibly one in a million. These children do not need to be addressed because they will learn despite any circumstance, bad teacher or no teacher.
My thanks go to all the True Children and True Grandchildren in my 11 year venture to publish the Children's Piano Course. There was no question in my mind that these solos would be helpful to other children because they were written for a most critical group of children. What flair and emotion they brought to the music when they were touched by the music! On some occasions, they would say something that would bring the comfort to my heart that I needed to continue working at this task. I remember the times I failed to write at their level and then, I had a crying child. A child's expression and opinion of something is always so spontaneous and honest that I could only gain by taking their reactions very seriously. Thus, they helped me compose better music, more conducive to their liking and ultimately, they felt more successful. I told Father in the spring of 1993 that I completed the children's course. He put his signature on my last and final book.
The story should end here and I could say I'm finished. Wrong! When I was in full swing teaching Shin Won and Shin Eh, I found it necessary to compose more songs for them. After 5 years of not publishing music, the piano solos started to pile up on my shelf and in 1998, I suddenly received a strong message that I must continue to expand this children's course to print more Level 2, 3, and 4 music. An example of what would happen when I would get a notion to compose was as follows: Shin Eh came to a lesson one day and said she was going to be a flower girl for Hyung Jin-nim and Young Jin-nim's wedding. This was a time to write Wedding Piano Solos spreading the essence of love. Dressed in White, Wedding Cake, Wedding Bells and Wedding Wish, although written for children, I knew even adult beginners would enjoy playing them. I could write a message through Wedding Wish to the "public at large" with words of love and God. God could become an integral part of many people and children's lives through their hearts responding to this music. Shin Won, being a boy, wanted solos that celebrated Haraboji's victories so the music is dramatic. Others evoke adventure, turbulence or celebration with the songs, New Adventure, Twister, and I'm Now .......! Shin Won told me last week that he wants to make drawings to enhance the titles of these songs. To him, he feels he is an integral part of my project. To have him express his desire to offer his talent was another unspoken victory for the project. These solos became incorporated in the books called, Sharing Time Piano Solos.
Again, I found that when love is given, it has a way of coming back. Yun Shim Kim, my niece and student since 9 years old, became my first student teacher. She was a "whiz" at computer and helped me by doing the computer work for the first two 1998 books. Although I thought I would never learn how to operate a computer, especially engraving music, she gave me one lesson and with trial and error, I began to engrave the more difficult level 2, 3 and 4 piano solos. I am finding that my personally being involved with the engraving process gives me the luxury of changing the notes any time I want. The computer is sitting next to my piano but after completing the notes, I don't have to move over to the piano to test it. All I do is point to the icon button that says, "play" and I can hear it exactly as I engraved it. What a time saver this is! I never ever have to hand-write the changes anymore! I remember the many years of losing sleep because I couldn't make any changes after the music was sent to the engraver. Last but not least, Jin Hong Park, Yun Shim's brother-in-law and now my relative through her marriage, got "snagged" by Yun Shim to do the cover designs. What a heart he has! I can only say that his generosity in offering his talents was the only way I could complete this most difficult but important project.
To come full circle to what I mentioned in the beginning about why Father repeatedly emphasizes the importance of discipline, I think he does so because discipline (persistent practice) is challenging in this day and age because of the many distractions we are bombarded with. In my case, coming from a family of 8 girls and one boy, we all took lessons. I was one of the girls that really "loved" music, according to my mom. When love of music is that pronounced, it usually means that a "gift from God" was given and so I had an obligation to develop this gift. Working at it means I had to make choices to give it priority. Also I was faced with difficult obstacles or circumstances. There were times I wanted the best teacher who could make a difference in my playing, but as a full time university student, I had a partial scholarship but it didn't cover paying for piano lessons. I needed to find a job but I had to fit this job into my schedule. I auditioned for a job accompanying ballet which required I play non-stop for 3 hours. I was accepted. It was tiring to play "forte" (loud) to help the dancers in the "lifts" and the "grande battements" but it helped pay for my music lessons and gave me more confidence in performing.
Because of this background, I felt Heavenly Father asked me, through Mother, to try to untangle some difficult problems in teaching music. This article is somewhat long but short compared to my life-long pursuit to do something meaningful. To finally know that I have something of value to offer True parents and our Heavenly Father, made all those years of preparation worthwhile. Without the many troubling experiences I faced here at East Garden, I would not feel an urgency to design my children's course as I did. I am concerned about the parents understanding my conclusions in my book. (Op. 15). It was quite evident to me that there is a difference of opinions in educating children music because of our cultural differences. A child's desire to practice piano could be "squashed" if the parent handles it in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. The guidelines I give did not come without much suffering on the part of the children and myself as the teacher.
Over 200 piano solos for the children have been published. To teach the principles I believe in are already in book form and video. What remains is for me to extend this article to other publications to spread the word that it is now available for you to use and as Father hoped, for the whole world too!
To see children happy to share their accomplishments at the piano and brightening the atmosphere (including spirit world), is truly a blessing for all of us. What music can do for you as it has done for me is: "Mind and body working together will make you feel yourself evolving into a bigger person spiritually and your overflowing joy will enable you to embrace others and be more giving. God's joy is reflected when our expression in music conveys love and beauty on the highest level."(Book, Op. 15).
All these book are available at 43rd St. Book Store and Accord Book Store. If you have any questions, you may write to me at 120 N. Broadway #8A, Irvington, N.Y. 10533.
Children's Piano Course
Mary Jane Y. Tashiro
Music Letter Names, C. Position, Opus 18..............................First Book..............$6.95
Teachers: Refer to book, Op. 15
NOTES, Our Friends, C. Position, Opus 19.............................Level 1..................$7.00
NOTES, Our Friends, F Position, Growing to G, Opus 20.......Level 1-2...............$7.00
Wedding Piano Solos, Opus 21 (4 Songs)...............................Level 2 1/2...............$4.00
Sharing Time Piano Solos, Opus 22........................................Level 2-3................$8.00
Sharing Time Piano Solos, Opus 23.........................................Level 3-4................$8.00
Sharing Time Piano Solos, Opus 24........................................Level 4....................$8.00
Piano Teaching with Love, Teacher's Manual, Opus 15.......................................$7.00
A book explaining how to teach each age group
Piano Teaching with Love, Companion Music Book, Op.16...Level 1-3...............$7.00
28 Piano Solos (includes photographs of "drop-lift" action)
Piano Teaching with Love, Video, Opus 17
The "relaxation approach" taught by M. J. Tashiro....................................$20.00
21 Winners, Beginner, Opus 10..................................................Level 1..................$5.95
21 Winners, Advanced Beginner, Opus 12................................Level 1-2................$5.95
21 Winners, Intermediate, Opus 11...........................................Level 2-4................$6.95
Hometown, Opus 13..................................................................Level 2-3.................$2.95
Circle of Love, Opus 14............................................................Level 4.....................$4.95MJYT
120 N. Broadway #8A
Irvington, New York 10533
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