Sarah's Music Garden
Sarah views each of her student as a unique flower with inimitable beauty. Because each flower is different, she approaches her students with a fresh open mind, observing carefully and respectfully their unique features and needs. She has discovered that the most important foundation for growth is cultivating an environment of unconditional acceptance, love, and positivity*. She uses garden tools of quiet meditation, prayer as well as dynamic sense of play and improvisation to tune into each precious life and focuses on allowing the infinite beauty to shine through.
She finds that the most important mission in her teaching is to activate and awaken the Spirit within and to connect her students to the depths and height of feeling, thought and consciousness. With her spirited and dynamic teaching/coaching, she is able to guide, nurture and inspire her students to connect to true essence of music, resulting in a satisfying, connected, expressive performance.
*In addition to providing a safe, nurturing environment for growth in her own studio, she asks that the home environment which is critical in establishing the positive space for students daily practice, align with the core principles of SMG.
“You are the world's best and most brilliant piano teacher!!”
- Ardy Cortez, mother of Jessie Cortez, student at the New England Conservatory Preparatory Division (NEC)
“Sarah Takagi is, without a doubt, the best piano teacher I have ever had. Her teaching motivated me to practice and play more, and more importantly, inspired my understanding and love of music. I came away from each lesson with a deeper knowledge of the repertoire, better techniques for how to express myself through the piano, and a renewed enthusiasm for music and playing the piano.”
- Meggie Stoltzman, student at NEC and daughter of Grammy winning artist, Richard Stoltzman
Six months ago, Jiin absolutely hated piano, and piano was the least favorite thing she had to do. But now, it's at the very top, and she always wants to play!
It just amazes me that after about 5 years of reluctant playing, she has learned to truly appreciate the beauty and joy of piano playing in just 6 months under your tutelage.
And of course, all credit goes to you. You're inspirational!
And it confirmed my belief that when you really love something and believe in something, it's contagious. That commitment to one's work with genuine passion is worth something.
Thank you for reminding me of that.”
-Jee H. An, Professor of English at Seoul National University; mother of Jiin
"I was amazed at Isabelle's progress once she began piano lessons with Sarah after taking lessons elsewhere. Her playing was transformed after only three lessons.”
-Duane Vorce, grandmother of Isabelle
Both Teresa and I were positively speechless after reading your email. You have nailed our child like no other teacher has done before. Everything you mention that her piano playing will need before it can raise to the next level is what she needs in every part of her little life and school work.
Teresa and I love your stages of work and can now see clearly your approach, execution and results. We can't thank you enough for working with Telden the way you do.
-Denise, Teresa ( and Telden- -although she doesn't know it yet)”
“Katja has undergone an amazing transformation in the short time that she has been with you. We are so lucky to have found you. She has developed a whole new appreciation for the piano under your tutelage. I am so happy that with you she will be able to realize her potential. My Mom and Dad would be so pleased if they had lived to see this.”
-Glenn Dunlap, father of Katja
“We have been extremely happy to meet you and she (Dhanbee) has made great progress this year truly thanks to you. I am sure it will be hard to find a piano teacher like you who is very inspirational, necessarily demanding, encouraging, and very sweet. You are the best piano teacher we have ever had and we will miss you a lot!”
-Jieun You, mother of Dhanbee
You are at once an exceptional musician, a searching psychotherapist, and a spiritual and loving person. You care not only for my daughter's piano practice, but also her flourishing as a person. You put in painstaking effort and a loving heart into each lesson. In just 9 months my daughter, who used to be a quiet student and reluctant to practice, has blossomed into someone who talks a lot and practice everyday without the slightest prompting. Thank you so very much indeed.
You are indeed the ideal piano teacher--and certainly more than a piano teacher!
I could not have praised you enough! I wish we could have stayed longer.”
-Hon-Lam Li, Professor of Philosophy at Chinese University of Hong Kong
“You were the best piano teacher I ever had - thanks so much for teaching me!!
I'm so excited to start playing more piano again”
-John Latartara, Associate Professor of Theory at University of Mississippi
“I continue to be impressed at how you can identify and decode her personality and temperament almost instantly, something that took us years!. Also, the way to approach her and talk to her, consistently firm and strict, but gentle and loving; never authoritarian and intimidating which would put her in a defensive/alert position. Wonderfully done by you and a great example to dad as well!”
-Alfonso Urzua, father of Anna, piano student age 5
“We can never thank you enough for giving Toby an unbelievably great start with the piano. Toby works hard on practice because YOU make it so interesting and bring the best out of him! You've given him so much to think about, and so much to pay attention to when he listens to music. I really think it's a whole new world for him. He's not a very talkative kid, and tends to be very parsimonious with words, so it's doubly amazing to us that he is actually working on composition and enjoying it. We are so very grateful that you are giving him an expressive outlet and a voice.”
- Li Lee, mother of Toby, piano student
"Dear Sarah, You are definitely one of the people I'm going to miss most from Wellesley. I'm so glad I got the chance to study piano with you. Thanks so much for so many great memories and advice on both piano and life!"
-Jenny Chan, student at Wellesley College
“I just wanted to thank you for teaching Katja. Eversince she started taking lessons with you, Katja has been playing the piano ALL the time. I am very grateful to you for bringing out her passion to play – it is so nice in the house with her playing! I was at her soccer game yesterday, and her friend’s parents told me that she plays on their piano when she is there as well.”
-Lidija Polutnik, mother of Katja
“I feel so happy to hear her, this is the first time that I hear her connection to her feeling in the music.
Thank you for every thing.”
-Merav Schnitzer, mother of Tamar; student at NEC
"Sarah makes the effort of understanding everything about Gene, and allowing his personality to shine through the music!"
-Jay Yoon, mother of Gene
"Sarah is a great teacher. I had wonderful lessons! I also love her purple music garden."
-Gene Yoon, student
“Piano is ever important, and I am so grateful that you accepted Sophia and worked so hard with her. The quote I had in mind had to do with Rodin. I remembered that he perceived his work in sculpture not as creating a form, but rather as freeing it from the marble. Watching you working with her hands reminded me of this. You took something shapeless and drew out a beautiful form, as you worked with her from the inside out. It was inspiring and lasting, and quite different from the way of teaching that imposes from the outside.
I couldn't find the exact words but this comes close:
There are unknown forces in nature; when we give ourselves wholly to her, without reserve, she lends them to us; she shows us these forms, which our watching eyes do not see, which our intelligence does not understand or suspect.
- Auguste Rodin.”
-Maia Stuart, mother of Sophia, student at NEC
“Dear Sarah ,
You are such a gift to us.
That you "see" our girl & her core essence is its own kind of magic - I totally trust you with her musical journey.
That you can see her in her strengths and limitations and can guide , inspire and hold her at her creative best is my dream. You meet her with your creative soul best asking her to meet you there , this is the best - highest consciousness teaching.
We are so grateful for the blessing of you.
Thank you thank you.
She loves you and sees in you her creative guide , mentor & "play " mate - soul sister.
Teacher in the Highest form.”
- Jan Goddard-Taylor, mother of Isabella
"Congratulations on a most beautiful and successful piano recital last week. We were so impressed at the first-rate preparation of each and every one of your students. Not only was each student beautifully equipped to play the piano both musically and technically, but their stage composure and graciousness to their audience was impeccable across the board. Each student looked happy to be there and offered their pieces in a mature and generous way. Further each one had gorgeous posture and acknowledged their audience with smiles and nice bows. "I'm sure you must feel very proud of your class, as well you should. We feel very fortunate indeed that Lia has the priviledge of working with you. You have helped her enormously already in her musical and technical growth, and she is enjoying the process thoroughly."
-Carrie and Cammy, parents of Lia, student at NEC
“I have been to many piano recitals in my life, but this one was Magical!”
-Mary Beth Nason, Andover, MA
“I have to tell you, Mira is playing like crazy and even showing the right technique! It is like a different child.”
-Stephanie Hsu, mother of Mira.
“She is one of the most relentlessly positive people I know . . . studying with Sarah is both artistic and therapeutic!”
-Jerry O’Regan, adult student
“We are writing to express our utmost appreciation for Ms. Sarah Takagi as a superb piano teacher. Ms. Takagi has been teaching our daughter Anna Kotecka for five years now. Right before beginning her lessons with Ms. Takagi, Anna was a 13-year old girl with a few years of experience in piano playing under two different teachers. However, despite her musicality, Anna was lacking sufficient basic skills, played on a poorly trained mid beginner level and was frightened to show expression. It was obvious that she needed a better teacher. After meeting with four piano faculties of NEC Prep School, we were lucky to find Ms. Takagi, who promised to establish solid technique and confidence in Anna's playing.
Sarah was extremely supportive, showed deep care in addressing technical and psychological obstacles in Anna and was very persistent in keeping high demands. Not only teaching principles, but also Ms. Takagi's communication skills toward Anna, as well as her regular weekly emails informing us about Anna's responsiveness are all equally excellent. Seeing Anna's gradual progress, Sarah showed extraordinary thoughtfulness and generosity by teaching Anna free extra 15 minutes for all those years. She called it her personal scholarship for Anna, going out of her way to stay committed to her student, as she knew that sending four children to NEC Prep School was quite hard for us. Last semester, Sarah added free half hour lessons for Anna and another student, so that they could play Beethoven sonatas for each other. As a result, Anna has far surpassed our expectations in becoming a more expressive, confident and advanced player who enjoys sharing music with others. Sarah has provided regular such opportunities at her exceptionally well organized and uniquely warm recitals at which her students of all ages perform with great joy, and happy to be beautiful flowers in her musical garden, as Sarah herself calls them. Ms. Takagi has also utterly inspired her students by inviting them to her many concerts at which she performed with such a great artistry and spirituality. It is this dedication, gentle attitude, profound expertise and inspiration that testify of Ms. Sarah Takagi as a truly stellar piano teacher to whom we will be always most grateful for the gift of music for our daughter Anna and opening her horizons."
-Maciej Kotecki and Malgorzata Kotecka, parents of Ania Kotecka, student at NEC
"Sarah is the type of person that this earth is blessed with only once in a great while; a type of person that can move the universe with a whisper. Sarah's intuition and well-honed vision allowed me to see my music and the world in ways that I was physically not capable of before meeting her. After working with Sarah, my compositions have quantum leaped. Not only because of the amazing teachings and insight Sarah shared with me but all the confidence she helped me build in myself. In all honesty I can say Sarah is the most amazing mentor I have ever had in my life. To this day she is a core factor of motivation for me. Every now and again in this life we get lucky enough to meet someone special who impacts our life so profoundly that they inspire us to become a better person. She is one of those special people to me who inspires me to be the best I can be."
-Lightiel Haltom, founder, Central Sun Records, pianist, composer
“Piano is the best thing that ever happened to me!"
-Noah Ciccolo, piano student age 7
"As a teacher again Sarah is in a class all her own. Her uniqueness is due to much more than simply her impeccable credentials as a teacher. For Sarah pours herself into every teaching session in a fashion that literally moves and inspires the students to be the very best that they can be. Anyone fortunate enough to study with Sarah is not only privileged but truly blessed."
-Vittorio Passanante, Spiritual Counselor, Guide, and Energetic Healer Victorious Light
“What a lovely recital! So full of good spirit and generosity. I loved the moments when kids were sharing their own compositions and how proud they looked. I'm just so impressed that as a teacher you impart to your students beautiful technique and focus as well as encourage them to be creative and expressive artists. That seems so rare! ”
- Kelli Edwards; parent, choreographer, dancer, faculty at Milton Academy
“You are such a true creative soul and lead with such grace and goodness!!! Evangeline was really proud of herself I think! She's been in such a great mood all evening”
-Alissa Cardone; parent, dancer, faculty at Boston Conservatory at Berklee
“I still remember thinking when I first met and heard you play and listened to your teaching philosophy “wow ….. this is just light years away from what I was taught when I was young and you are on another dimension from the teacher my parents entrusted my musical education to”. I feel this even more strongly after watching how Kari has grown under your mentorship and by experiencing your piano recital recently”
- Liz Watson, mother of Kari, who was accepted to Oberlin Conservatory as composition major
“I want to thank you for all the incredible conversations, all the support, all the invaluable lessons, and of course for all of the piano technique you taught me. Your teaching style has been so so unique and helpful in developing my improvisation, composition, and analysis of pieces, along with my piano skills. I feel so blessed and thankful to have been able to work with you, and I hope that we will be present in each others lives as I go to Oberlin Conservatory and beyond. Thank you for being my musical and spiritual role model in my life”
- Kari Watson, accepted as composition major at Oberlin Conservatory of Music
“Sarah's Music Garden is such a nurturing environment.. Without SMG, there really wouldn't be as much music around the house - when we came to Sarah, Rishi had already quit piano and Arya didn't want to go anymore either. But now they love it and are even very willing to practice. She has a uniquely creative approach in teaching music - she gives them each really challenging and beautiful pieces that best match their personalities so that they are excited to play them. And they're so motivated to play those pieces that are willing to practice the technique they need to master, to actually play them! It's a completely brilliant strategy! But then she goes beyond that - we're grateful that Sarah individualizes her teaching by understanding each child and their talents so that even when you have siblings, she finds what each child is particularly talented at, and help the child build and expand on that identity as a musician! It's unique that Sarah helps them become better composers and artists, and she is not "just" teaching them to play the piano. We are really glad we found Sarah!”
- Radhika Dutt, mother of Arya and Rishi
“ Thanks, Sarah! Dhanbee is lucky to meet you as a piano teacher. Her playing is much improved after getting one lesson today. “
-Jieun You, mother of Dhanbee after one lesson
"Dear Sarah, Thank you for all the time and attention you have given me. You are a great piano teacher. I never would have been accepted at BCM (Boston Conservatory of Music) if I hadn't studied with you."
-Joel Verrechia, student who went onto Boston Conservatory as a piano major
"Dear Sarah, Thank you so much for all your efforts with Alex. We all feel he has made great progress this year, which is truly due to you. You have quickly gotten to know him which has enabled you to push him when needed, and reward him when due. This is a skill that a parent hopes for in a teacher. . . "
-Alison Tishler, mother of Alex, private/NEC student
"My son has been studying with Sarah for the past two years. In this short time, Sarah has dramatically developed my son's technique and musicality. We appreciate her balanced teaching where she is strict, yet positive and encouraging. I have observed my son's self-esteem and confidence increase thanks to Sarah's teaching. We are very happy to have her as our piano teacher."
-Julia Lee, mother of Andrew, student at NEC
"Studying piano with Sarah for three years at Wellesley was one of the best parts of my college experience. Her enthusiasm and incredible musical gifts motivated me to constantly strive for higher levels of musicianship. More than a brilliant pianist, Sarah is also a caring teacher who made lessons inspiring and fun."
-Julia Lovett, student at Wellesley College
"Dear Sarah, I'm just writing to let you know that I feel very fortunate to have had you as my piano teacher and I really valued my lessons with you - probably the most personal, intellectual, and artistic time during my four years at Wellesley. Thank you for being my mentor and friend."
-Kristen Yoo, student at Wellesley College
"Dear Sarah, You have been my 'rock' these past four years! You, beyond being a fabulous, inspiring piano teacher, have also been an amazing friend.
Thank you so much!"
-Christine Cha, student at Wellesley College
"Sarah brings the same grace, vibrancy and commitment to her teaching that does to her own performances. Her lessons and homework are carefully designed to develop young pianist's technical skills and musicality. I have been amazed at her ability to engage my active, energetic son and draw out careful and fluid technique as well the emotion appropriate for the piece. William looks forward eagerly to his lesson with her each week!"
-L. Keating - mother of William, private student
"Dear Sarah Takagi, Thank you so much for your sincere help and advice for my Rachmaninoff. My success wouldn't have occurred without you. You help me do it! Thank you so much."
-Miyuki Otani, professional pianist
A recommendation letter written by her colleague: "While maintaining the highest possible standards for her students, her perspective as an educator is to challenge and invite her students to realize their highest potential - while appreciating the highest potential of their peers. Thus, even in a workshop situation, which is potentially a nerve-wracking and competitive environment, she frames the situation in ways that help the students honor the best in one another.
"She herself models excellence in performing as well as teaching - I have been privileged to hear some of her stunning solo and chamber recitals - at Jordan Hall, Wellesley College, and Tufts University; whether celebrating the devotion of the infant Christ (Messiaen), a sultry tango (Ginastera), a frothy jazz toccata (Gershwin) or cosmic journeys (Bach and Liszt), Sarah's approach to music is one of originality, dedication, courage, spontaneity, and sheer joy. ". . . A bridge-builder, her own concert programs frequently involve multimedia or collaborations with lecturers, dancers, etc. I have every faith in her further practical innovations and collaborations at NEC Prep. "And while she certainly has a formidable track-record of helping students navigate the competitions of the musical world, it is the combination of realism and joy that is truly special.
Also her fundamental concern for integrity in every situation - modeling integrity in her own navigations, and developing integrity in her students. Indeed, the combination of character-building and values which she embodies is for me the very heart of the Prep school, in addition to technical mastery and general musicianship. Enthusiastically,
-Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, conductor/composer/pianist, former lecturer at Harvard University
"You are truly one of those rare and special teachers with a gift for intuiting what a student needs from moment to moment to stay motivated and focused. Your ability to switch with Gabriel from being silly and playful to being strict and serious is a beautiful thing to behold. We are so grateful to have you in our lives!"
- Rachel Alberts, mom of Gabriel, student