Pam Werner, a local piano teacher with Maumelle Music Teachers League, recently returned from Japan. Every two years she makes the 16-hour flight across the Pacific with one of her advanced piano students to play in a ten piano concert in Matsumoto, located in the mountains of Japan. This year was no exception as she traveled with Elise Cawthon, a 16-year-old junior at Academics Plus Charter school.

This was Elise’s first trip out of the country. As an advanced student, she had the opportunity to join other students from Japan and other countries and play together, in unison, one classical piano piece. The ten piano concerts are part of the Suzuki Method of teaching piano. Students and teachers from other countries have the opportunity to experience the Japanese culture first hand, by staying with a local "homestay" family. The families often have children who are playing in the ten piano concert.

Elise shared that what she liked most about the trip was the chance to see another culture. While none of her homestay family spoke English, another American Suzuki student who stayed with the same family spoke Japanese and was able to act as an interpreter. She stayed with the Yokayama family and their two children, Yui, 12 and Kana, 13. She was surprised that the house she stayed in was larger than most American homes, which is unusual for Japan.

She was particularly impressed with how polite everyone is and how helpful they are. The family wanted her to experience the traditional culture of Japan, so they took her to various types of restaurants. They also made a trip to the Matsumoto castle, a landmark in Matsumoto and one of Japan’s premier castles. It is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.

As part of preparation for the concert, she would practice 3-4 hours a day and have a 30-45 minute lesson about every other day. At the concert pieces played range from "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" (and variations) to complex and advanced pieces. Elise played in unison with 9 other students "Sonatina" by Clementi. At concert time, she enjoyed mingling with the other American students and talked about their own music education while backstage waiting their turn to perform. It was great to be around so many English-speaking people and understand what they were saying.

After finishing high school, Elise hopes to continue her education and pursue a degree in Library Science with a specialty in Youth Services. She is not yet sure which college she would attend.

Mark your Calendars

"Let’s Dance to Health!" A fund-raising event by Stars Come Out, Inc. to benefit Sickle Cell Support Services. Saturday, May 11, 2012 from 5 – 8 p.m. at Wildwood Park for The Arts, 20919 Denny Road, Little Rock. Tickets - $35 in advance, $45 at the door! Food, jazz music, silent auction and most of all, the dancing competition! or 501-993-8867.

The Argenta Historic District - twenty-five pen and ink drawings by Maumelle artist Mary Ann Stafford will be on exhibit at the Thea Foundation Center for the Arts until May 18, 2013. The drawings are of some of the oldest and most important buildings in the Argenta Historic District placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. The Baker Bed and Breakfast House, the First Presbyterian Church, the Barth-Hempfling Cottage, and the Argenta Drug Store are some of the buildings portrayed.

The exhibit will hang from through May 18, 2013 at the Thea Center at 401 Main Street in downtown North Little Rock. An artist reception is planned during the Argenta Art Walk on May 17 from 5–8 p.m.

Maumelle Photography Club meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the Maumelle Library.

Remember to let us know about your event or organization so we can give it a place in a Spotlight on the Arts feature story or calendar. Contact me at