Yasuko Joichi and student

Yasuko Joichi and Isabelle

Image by Melissa Kayne-Arbetter

Mrs. Joichi was a beloved Suzuki Piano Teacher and SAA Teacher Trainer. She served on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago, worked on the Suzuki Piano repertoire revisions committee and taught at many institutes and workshops.

She studied Suzuki Piano Pedagogy at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan, the University of Wisconsin, and at Memphis State University. She was also a nationally certified Teacher of Music in Piano by the Music Teachers National Association.

Yasuko Joichi’s warmth, kindness and enthusiasm for teaching will be greatly missed.

In lieu of gifts or flowers, her family has requested gifts to a charity or organization of your choice.

Born in 1945 in Kyoto, Japan, Yasuko became the fourth child of Hideo and Iwae Segawa. Rather unusual for the time, both of her parents had gone to theological seminary school, and although their training was just short of ordination, they each preached to their respective congregations. Lively debates and conversations with missionaries and Buddhist friends filled her youth and undoubtedly left an indelible impression on her.

In 1968, already an adventuresome traveler, she crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed in Evanston, Illinois, for graduate school at Northwestern University where she majored in piano performance. Shortly thereafter she met her husband, Max, while Christmas caroling at a church in Chicago. By 1970, her only daughter, Janet, was born.

During the next few decades, Yasuko’s days were filled with much musical activity. She played organ in churches, gave recitals, and was active in many music teachers organizations. From 1977 to 1979, even the entire family gave Sunday Afternoon Concerts at Cantigny in Wheaton, Illinois.

Always a teacher at heart since her teenage years in Japan, she taught piano her entire life until a stroke in December 2008. Most recently she taught piano at the Music Institute of Chicago and at Elmhurst College preparatory and college departments. Previously, she taught at Wheaton College preparatory school and privately at home. Perhaps central to her music teaching career was encountering the Suzuki Method in 1975, an approach to music instruction that she tried first with her daughter. She eventually became a teacher-trainer in Suzuki Piano and traveled worldwide as an instructor at institutes and conferences.

All of that traveling was hard to give up, and she continued her travels most recently to Europe, Central America, and Asia until 2008. If it were not for her stroke, she would have volunteered again in Costa Rica with Cross Cultural Solutions.

Her love for dogs and many furry creatures could be seen by all. Pictures adorned the walls and cabinets of her piano studios and even refrigerator at home. Her laugh was infections as was her charm with young students. In the past few years, she enjoyed visits from her grandson and followed her physical therapy and speech therapy exercises diligently. Unfortunately, her heart was not strong enough to continue her lifelong adventure. In memory of a life fully lived, let us wish her peace.

—Marilyn Andersen

Remembering Mrs. Joichi: A Mother’s Perspective

My daughter Isabelle had just turned five years old and it was time for her to begin piano lessons. Having studied Suzuki violin and piano as a child and being a Suzuki violin teacher myself, I was convinced that the Suzuki piano method was the best choice for Isabelle’s training. I had never met Mrs. Yasuko Joichi, but was well aware of her name and reputation for high quality teaching.

We walked into our first piano lesson prepared with a new notebook, pen, and, most importantly, a freshly purchased Suzuki piano book and CD. Despite these preliminary steps, we could not possibly have been prepared for the rare gift we were about to receive from Mrs. Joichi.

Upon entering her music studio, I took notice of the collage of photographs of Mrs. Joichi smiling with various young individuals as well as the oversized spiral bound book of various inspirational quotes. This warm, welcoming atmosphere immediately helped Isabelle and me feel comfortable in a new learning environment.

In the early stages of my daughter’s piano lessons with Mrs. Joichi, I recognized that I was observing magic. I still recall the first time that Isabelle played Dr. Suzuki’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Variation A rhythm. I sat in the lesson in amazement and simply cried. Mrs. Joichi calmly sat by Isabelle and gently guided her hand as she played. As a Suzuki teacher, I had heard this rhythm played countless times. However, hearing my own daughter play this rhythm for the first time was the equivalent of seeing her take her first steps. It was additionally special to see how Mrs. Joichi patiently guided her. As a parent and Suzuki teacher, this is a memory of pure joy.

I am confident that I am a better person and teacher because of the time spent with Mrs. Joichi. She showed me the importance of patience and gentle strength. An example of this was when we arrived early for lessons. I would ask Mrs. Joichi if we could warm-up in an empty room. She kindly advised against this, wisely inferring it was best for me to not push my daughter to learn new material immediately before her lesson. Additionally, I sometimes brought Isabelle’s younger sister to lessons. She required numerous activities to keep her occupied during the lesson. I was concerned this would be a distraction to Mrs. Joichi. To the contrary, Mrs. Joichi became interested in Isabelle’s sister and her activities. I am regretful that she never had the opportunity to learn piano from Mrs. Joichi.

I am forever grateful to Mrs. Joichi for nurturing Isabelle’s early musical growth and helping her form a strong foundation. She always encouraged Isabelle to participate in other musical experiences, such as youth choir and playing triangle in the percussion section of a music school performance of The Toy Symphony by Haydn. Despite primarily being Isabelle’s piano teacher, Mrs. Joichi stressed the importance of being exposed to a variety of musical experiences.

It is in the spirit of Mrs. Joichi’s life that we choose to remember her. We will always remember her love of music and learning, as well as her love of nature and animals. We are grateful for the five years spent as students of Mrs. Joichi. We are extremely fortunate to have been recipients of Mrs. Joichi’s pedagogical talents and, more importantly, her gracious, gentle, kind-hearted spirit.

Thank you, Mrs. Joichi. You will be deeply missed.

—Melissa Kayne-Arbetter

Remembering Mrs. Joichi: Remembering my first piano teacher

I started taking piano lessons from Mrs. Joichi when I was five years old. I was very excited to start a sticker collection. I was probably more excited about the sticker collection than I was about practicing piano. When I first met Mrs. Joichi, I was shy. She was very kind and nice, which made me feel very comfortable. I remember my first piano recital with Mrs. Joichi. When it was my turn to play, she walked with me and set me up at the piano. This really helped me to feel comfortable. I will never forget her kindness.

She was a great teacher and supporter of the Suzuki Method. From the very beginning of my piano lessons, she taught me how to bow and have good hand position. These are qualities that have helped form a strong foundation for my piano playing even today. I have a stronger appreciation for the Suzuki Method thanks to Mrs. Joichi.

Five years after I began lessons, Mrs. Joichi got sick. My mom took me to visit her in a rehabilitation center. I was nervous to visit Mrs. Joichi, because I was not sure how much she would remember. I brought my Suzuki piano music to play for her. I was surprised that she gave me a mini lesson on the keyboard she had in her room. Although she could not speak very well due to a stroke, she was still able to help me with a very difficult passage in my piece. She seemed happy that I visited her and I was happy that I was able to see her again.

What I learned most from Mrs. Joichi is to always listen carefully to my music. When I learn a new piece now, I focus more on what I hear than what I see on the page. I am forever grateful to Mrs. Joichi for teaching me the skill of listening. I will always remember her kind spirit and her love of animals and music. I consider myself lucky to have had the good fortune of knowing and learning from Mrs. Joichi.

Mrs. Joichi:


—Isabelle Arbetter