Barbara Wampner

Instrument studied in Japan: ‘Cello

Dates in Japan: Summer 1972; Summer 1973; July 1975 - July 1976; Most conferences in Japan.

Years and locations of workshops with Dr. Suzuki that were outside of Japan: San Francisco State College, (now University), c. 1966; Hawaii conferences


My first encounter with Dr. Suzuki was at Northwestern University in 1964. I was soon to graduate with a B.M.Ed. when the first Tour Group presented a demonstration and concert before the MENC convention in Philadelphia. The young violinist who performed the Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor, 1st movement, demonstrated such beautiful sound and technique! I had not received any background in such instruction during my undergraduate training.

I took a summer workshop (1965?) from Mihoko (Yamaguchi) Hirata at College of Holy Names, Oakland CA, arranged by Sr. Therese Cecile, to learn about the violin training. I was teaching junior high school orchestra at the time.

In 1966, Dr. Walter Haderer invited Dr. Suzuki to come to San Francisco State to present a several-week workshop for teachers. We observed students from different teachers, including Elizabeth Mills from Pasadena CA, and a public school teacher from Carlsbad CA, Mr. Margarito Ramirez. Margaret Rowell, my teacher for a graduate degree in cello, was giving a workshop during the same time and I attended both sections. She was very interested in Dr. Suzuki’s ideas.

For several years, there were Tour Groups with Dr. Suzuki coming to CA. Usually, they did not include cello students. In a local chamber orchestra, I met Jackie Corina, a violin teacher, who had gone to Matsumoto in the late ’50’s. She suggested that I go to Japan in 1972 to watch the cello teaching there. I met Dr. Sato in Tokyo and watched a few lessons. I also observed violin lessons of Mr. Hirose. Mr. Nomura, Karan (now known as Toran) Nagase, and Akira Nakajima were the only other Suzuki cello teachers in Japan at that time, and I met them at the Summer School that year. After a few days, I went to Matsumoto. I was surprised that Dr. Suzuki invited me to have tea and talk when I first arrived. Mrs. Suzuki arranged for me to observe Karan Nagase. I went for every day of his teaching for about five weeks and observed violin and piano teaching, as well. I returned during the summer of 1973 for about two months, but this time I stayed in Matsumoto and participated in ensembles, but not as a kenkyusei. Jackie Corina suggested that both of us go in the summer of 1975, when I was 32 years old, as she wanted to graduate and hoped to have me come as a housemate. I did not intend to graduate at the time, but I enrolled as a kenkyusei with all the courses, except music history.

Planning that stay was not difficult because Dr. and Mrs. Suzuki knew us. We were able to rent a small house in Minami (South) Matsumoto that was vacated by John Slagle, a previous cello kenkyusei. He had installed a shower for his wife and his family; and they left the furniture, futons, heaters, and kitchen appliances that John was able to purchase through a connection to the PX in Yokohama. Jackie managed most of the house details such as propane orders and paying household bills. I did the grocery shopping and cooking. We knew some of the citizens from Matsumoto who had lived in the US or taught English and spent some leisure time with them.

On Mondays I had calligraphy class and a rehearsal for my solo, which I performed on the afternoon kenkyusei concert for Dr. Suzuki. The weekly classes of tone with Dr. Suzuki and interpretation with Mr. Takahashi were important sessions. I observed Mr. Nagase teaching for his full day of teaching in Nagano and for his Friday teaching in Matsumoto. Dr. Suzuki gave a class for graduate violin teachers on Friday afternoons, which cello teachers observed. My Friday lessons with Mr. Nagase were not very long. As the only cello kenkyusei, I performed for the graduation recitals of the violinists and oboe player. Mr. Takahashi formed a small kenkyusei chamber orchestra; I was asked to participate.

While I didn’t expect to graduate, in January Mr. Nagase said that Dr. Suzuki wanted me to play a graduation recital on July 9. In late May, I was told that Dr. Suzuki thought my recital was too short and added the Boccherini Concerto in B Flat. Mr. Nagase gave me a cassette tape of Pablo Casals for my listening and the manuscript I was to use. I had never learned that piece in my previous studies.

In these later years, I have thought that this was Dr. Suzuki’s test to see if I understood the Suzuki Method of listening. Before going to Japan, I certainly had a great problem of playing without music. Preparing this recital was the most rapid memory work that I had ever done. I also asked permission from Mr. Nagase to have coaching from Mr. Takahashi for my recital preparation. I enjoyed preparing calligraphy for the recital.

I had a US-style Thanksgiving Day—Sarah Hersh and Kathy White hosted. For Christmas Day, Jackie and I hosted Dr. and Mrs. Suzuki, and Lesley and John Spear (who had just arrived from New Zealand) -- but we had no goose! On New Year’s Day, we met Dr. and Mrs. Suzuki at the kaikan for a treat of oranges and New Year’s sweets. Dr. Suzuki’s 77th Birthday Celebration was thrilling and a time to see the people who are mentioned in his life. Prince Tokugawa gave a speech; I recall hearing him call Dr. Suzuki “Shin-chan” in his remarks. There were also performances by Koji Toyoda, the Kobayashi brothers, and others.

The Budokan concert in Tokyo showed detailed planning. I have realized much later that all the large events are organized in this fashion with certain appointed senior teachers in charge of committees and careful instructions of everyone’s responsibilities.

Summer school in 1975 meant the kenkyusei were cleaning the high school classrooms to prepare. All jobs were done as a group for concerts. If we saw something that needed doing, we did it. That was an important part of Japanese culture in the community to learn. In our small neighborhood, the jobs of clearing weeds in backyards, sweeping the small street etc. happened on Sunday mornings. The women usually met very early and had everything done quickly.

I brought back 1/10, 1/18 and 1/14 size Nagoya cellos, which were not yet available in the USA. I taught for two years of public school to repay my sabbatical leave, but I began a private cello studio and started pre-school students. I taught in a private school’s cello class and joined a pre-college program begun by a Suzuki violin teacher. Summer Suzuki institutes in Wisconsin, Memphis, Illinois, Utah, Seattle, San Diego, and the National Cello institute have given me a chance to share experience with new teachers interested in SAA training. I was honored to be asked to teach in South America and conferences in Europe, Korea, Australia, and Japan.

I hope to continue to help parents work with their children with joy, helping realize their potential ability.