Tomoko relishes her role as a teacher. This Q and A session reveals her attitude and expertise.
Q: What motivates you to teach?
A: I give of my heart. I love to share. So many teach because of the money or to survive. If you have no interest in the student, why do it?
Q: What do you give your students?
A: I give them direction and encouragement. I give the quality, my impression of the sound.
Q: Do you see potential in all students?
A: All students have talent. They just grow at different rates. Everyone can start with 0 but can make 100. Nowadays some students quit too soon. They need to be patient with themselves. I push students who are not interested, and motivate them.
Q: How do you teach a child to interpret music?
A: First, I ask them to think about what the composer wants to say. I tell them that each piece is a story, and that they will see it at the end. Then I tell them to create – make some style. You need to include emotion. I try not to interpret the music for them.
Q: How do you help students progress?
A: Students may be scared about a new piece – it’s too hard. I tell them: “Now you start to work.” When want to go to Everest, you don’t look up too much. Look at the step head. Practice. Make sure each step is clear. If you look up you’ll be disappointed. When you reach the top of the mountain, you can look back and see how much you progressed.
Q: What do you think about parents as teachers of piano playing?
A: Parents may misguide their children because they might not understand how their child plays or what techniques the child needs. Parents think child should play X, but it isn’t the right piece for the child at that point. Sometimes parents push too much or have no patience. The teacher needs to protect the child. When I teach the child, I am also teaching the parent.
Q: What advice do you give students?
A: Know who you are. Know what you want. Look at the start. Make your own road. Look for water. Know how to survive.
You can learn a lot from Tomoko’s own performance too. Listen to her at http://www.tomokohagiwara.com/recordings.html#