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In loving memory of Doris Harrel

posted Jun 1, 2020, 4:02 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Jun 1, 2020, 9:38 PM ]

One of the founding members of the Heart of Texas Suzuki Organization, Dr. Doris Leland Harrel, passed away on April 5, 2020.  Extraordinary pianist, professor, Suzuki Piano Teacher Trainer, and graduate of Juilliard and UT Austin.  A lovely tribute written by Sara Stephens Kotrba was published in the Suzuki Journal.  See attachment.

Suzuki Journal Tribute in memory of Doris Harrel

May 22, 2020


When you think about Doris Harrel you can think about her Juilliard education, her long beautiful marriage to Ralph, her family, and her career as a college teacher. You can reflect on all her performance experiences. And of course, you can think about her life as a Suzuki Piano teacher trainer. You can read the obituary written by her family, where so much of her long and productive life is detailed. 


Mostly though, when we think about our musical mentors, we think about our own personal journey with them, our own experiences, and their huge impact on our own livesDoris had that impact on me and on countless other students and teachersEveryone who knew Doris has a personal story


met Doris in 1990 in the lobby of the University of Texas music building. We walked over to the basement cafeteria to get a cup of coffee. A friend had said I should consider doing pedagogy training with her, but it was a big commitment. We sat down and Doris started talking about the mother tongue method and Dr. Suzuki’s insights into nurturing the whole child. Before the coffee was coldI knew I had to do this training and I knew I had to do it with Doris.


She offered long-term teacher training in her home in San Marcos, Texas. We would meet on Monday afternoons. When we arrived, she would greet each of us at the door with a hug. We would make our way to her kitchen, getting hot coffee, tea or water. She showed us where things were the first time but after that we would make ourselves at home. She would serve a simple snack, often toasted bakery bread with jam, and we would gather around the table. Learning together in her home studio we trainees became lifelong friends. She would talk about the outline for the day and share articles for us to read, and we would ask questions about the observations we were doing. Once again, before the coffee was cold, we were heading to the pianos. 


At the pianos everybody played everything and she showed us the touch she was after by borrowing our hands and playing on our arms, learning through our senses. How did it feel? How did it sound? She knew when you understood it in your mind, when you internalized it in your playing, and most importantly, when you heard the right tone. She didn’t stop until everybody HAD it.  


Musical expression for Doris was everything, but it wasn’t a mysterious thing that only elite musicians could achieve. She broke it down for us, teaching classes like “How Do You Know That?” where she helped us find clues for interpretation in the music. She loved the pedal and taught specific workshops on effective pedaling. The end goal was always the message in the music, but in order to get there you needed intellect as well as the right physical approach. Mind, body, and spirit all worked together, years before that was a thing. 


Musicality was taught from Book One. Especially from Book One! She taught us that even very young children could express music with nuances. For Doris, it all came from the ear. Harmony, rhythm, balance, and voicing were all approached solely by listening. There were no little tricks or gimmicks to make the melody sing over the accompaniment. The teacher simply traded back and forth, student playing right hand, teacher playing gentle left hand, until the student had the correctly balanced sound in his or her ear. The hands will do what the ear requires, Doris would always say. 


Doris loved teaching. She taught at countless institutes. I don’t recall a class ever finishing on time. I remember the sign she used to pull out of her briefcase: “Beware the Attack Musician.” We listened to Alicia de Larrocha and Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart and compared the nuances of their sonatas. Nuance was a special word for Doris. 


Doris loved learning. For her, there was always more to learn. She was always introducing her trainees to new ideas and new people to learn from. She attended Taubman sessions in her eighties. She was open minded and was never afraid to say she changed her mind after learning something new. Last fall in her nursing facilityshe attended the recital of her colleague and family friend Tim Woolsey and had many insightful reflections for him. Even at age 93 she was still all about the music. 


Doris loved music. Her love was contagious. I can still hear her voice asking “Don’t you just love that?” regarding a deceptive cadence in Mozart sonata or a chromatic harmony in a Chopin prelude. She talked about the universal impact of music, how after 9/11 people expressed their grief with musicShe shared with us how while fighting pain in the hospital, her husband Ralph hummed a Beethoven bass line to help sooth his pain. 


Doris loved people. She saw the spark in everyone and fostered the careers of so many of our great Suzuki piano teachers. She brought teachers from Austin, Houston, San Marcos and San Antonio together, creating a beautiful Suzuki piano communityWe would gather in her home for dinner after weekend workshops. Trainees, trainers, and students were all there sharing a meal and a glass of wine, building lifetime friendships. She believed in all of us. 


I consider Doris to be the single most influential mentor in my musical life. I know I’m not alone. She embodied the Suzuki philosophy to nurture the whole child. She nurtured each and every trainee and every student in her path. Her classes were the way I want my studio—actually my whole life to be, an environment where everybody is loved and respected, where everybody grows. Doris gave us unconditional approval and affection, while setting the highest bar in service to the music. She reached out her hand to lift us along our musical journey. She blessed us so that we in turn can bless our students. Her life, her service, and her belief in us all, are to me, the greatest example of Dr. Suzuki’s words: where love is deep, much can be accomplished


We are so grateful for the life of Dr. Doris Leland Harrel.

Sara Stephens Kotrba

Sunday, January 19, 2020 HOTSO Chamber Music Festival

posted Sep 8, 2018, 3:10 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Sep 18, 2019, 8:47 PM ]

HOTSO is planning a 1-day Piano Festival on Sunday, January 19, 2020 at Texas State University from 9 am - 5:30 pm. Each student will be scheduled for a 4-hour session to include coaching in a master class, chamber music class, enrichment class, and student recital performance. Fees are $15 registration fee per family and $75 tuition per student. Click on the left side bar link for "2020 Festival Student Registration". Students can begin registering on Oct 1, 2019.

1-day Piano Festival - January 14, 2018

posted Sep 18, 2017, 4:09 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Oct 11, 2017, 3:56 PM ]

HOTSO is planning a 1-day Piano Festival on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Texas State University from 9 am -5 pm. Each student will have a master class and a recital as well as enrollment in either an enrichment class or a chamber music class. Expected fees are $15 registration fee per family and $50 tuition per student. Click on the left side bar link for "2018 Festival Student Registration".

Registration for 2017 workshop is now open

posted Sep 23, 2016, 9:54 AM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Sep 23, 2016, 9:58 AM ]

Click on Workshop Student Registration on the LEFT sidebar 



posted Jan 28, 2016, 6:55 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Jan 28, 2016, 6:59 PM ]

We are taking a survey! If you attended our January 16-17, 2016 Suzuki Piano Workshop (or one in the past), please give us your feedback.

2016 HOTSO workshop was a success

posted Sep 20, 2015, 5:42 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Jan 28, 2016, 6:58 PM ]

Several new faculty and a new class along with well-prepared students made for a great workshop weekend. 
Listen to Dr. Jonathan Tsay's experience as a Suzuki kid in his lecture to our student's parents:

Concerto performance

posted Feb 10, 2015, 8:56 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Feb 23, 2015, 3:04 PM ]

Congratulations to our two piano concerto performers at our 2015 January workshop! Thank you, Maya Kothare-Arora (and her teacher, Dr. Angelica Lopez) AND Natalie Castiglioni (and her teacher, Mary Parse) for your dedication. 
Listen here:

In memory of Mary Elizabeth Tomme

posted Jan 23, 2015, 10:08 AM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano

A founding member of our organization, who introduced many to the joys of the Suzuki philosophy through both piano and violin, has passed away.

January 10-11, 2015 Piano workshop

posted Jan 7, 2015, 11:33 AM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Jan 23, 2015, 10:09 AM ]

It will be a cold weekend but plenty of music making to keep you warm. Allow extra time for driving. There will be a concession stand with HOT coffee and other goodies with all money going to support the workshop.  There will be an amazing faculty recital at 1 pm on Saturday and two advanced students will play a concerto with orchestra on Sunday at 4:15pm.

Link to the entire 2015 Heart of Texas Piano workshop Program Booklet.  Print or view on your phone:

Workshop student registration opens Oct 1, 2014

posted Sep 30, 2014, 3:12 PM by Heart of Texas Suzuki Piano   [ updated Nov 6, 2014, 6:18 AM ]

Jeremy Dittus, a popular favorite from 2 years ago, returns to teach Dalcroze Eurhythmics this year for the entire workshop!  The amazing performer and teacher, Jonathan Tsay, will also be returning.  Duet class with Dr. Betty Mallard is also an option this year and students who take the Advanced Duet class will perform on the Student Recitals.  Be sure to make time to stay for the Concerto Concert on the afternoon of the last day of the workshop.  2 students will perform a piano solo accompanied by orchestra!

Video highlight of last year's Advanced Duet performance:

William Tell's Overture arranged for 4 hands

Get the 2015 Workshop brochure by clicking here:

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