This is the last post in the series Talent Education and The Talent Code.

In the section on master coaching, Daniel Coyle begins by breaking down the assumptions that a master teacher necessarily is a great leader, orator or has a commanding presence. He traveled around the world observing teachers at various locations known to produce talented students including music teachers and basketball coaches. About these master teachers he says:

“Instead, the teachers and coaches I  met were quiet, even reserved.  They were mostly older, many had been teaching thirty or forty years…The listened far more than talked. They seemed allergic to giving pep talks or inspiring speeches, they spent most of their time offering small, targeted, highly specific adjustments. They had an extraordinary sensitivity to the person they were teaching, customizing each message to each student’s personality. ” (1) 

The video is Dr. Kataoka helping her 4 year old blind student onto the stage to perform the Sonata Op. 49 #2 by Beethoven at the Atlanta Area Suzuki Piano Association 1992 Friendship concert at Georgia State University..


One reason older teachers and coaches are more often master teachers may come back to the 10,000 hour rule(2) for attaining mastery in a skill.  Teaching grows over time, and requires the same combinations of ignition and  deep practice that other skills require. It obviously also requires that the teacher has a level of skill in their chosen field, (piano) which again takes time.

While master teachers may mostly give only targeted specific adjustments, the student will need much more than this to be successful.  Dr. Suzuki says:  “Man is the son of his environment.”  So, in an environment where students are observing and participating with other learners, and the environment is rich in resources such as quality pianos, recordings, videos, performance opportunities, concerts, etc.; the actual “teaching time” can be focused on a students specific needs with specific instructions when the environment supports the overall learning and bigger picture.

My lesson with Dr. Kataoka in 2000.

The first of four virtues of a master teacher that Daniel Coyle defines is called “The Matrix” .(2)

Matrix is defined as  “something, such as a situation or a set of conditions, in which something else develops or forms”. (3)  So, the “matrix” is the total environment, and is also the curriculum, or the structure for the learning.  Coaches over time develop their own specific matrix of curriculum and environment. The master teacher crafts a “matrix”  as the unifying principle for all students, and upon which the individual guidance is built.

Dr. Suzuki developed his curriculum and method through years of research and teaching.  He never stopped changing and trying new ideas, even as the curriculum itself became established.  Dr. Haruko Kataoka developed the Piano Basics matrix from the Suzuki method through years of studying directly with Dr. Suzuki, and her own research and teaching.(4)  Teachers studying with her and other Suzuki teacher trainers then developed their personal matrix through their own research. Thus the Suzuki philosophy is a broad “matrix” upon which teachers build their specific programs. The highest quality teaching and coaching establishes a strong matrix, and also continuously evolves, and is specific to students and environments.A well constructed matrix or platform involves attention to the core of skill development. It is not only the learning of information, but includes attention to the development of motivation, posture and physical coordination, emotional maturity, and cognitive pattern recognition.  The “matrix” a master teacher provides is both a sequentially based curriculum, and also an environment which supports the learning.  The specifics of the matrix are not static, but change and evolve over time, according to new input, and the specific needs of the present situation.

The second virtue is “Perceptiveness”.  This one involves the individualization of instruction based on assessing students emotional, mental, and physical understanding during the teaching time.  Master coaches often are perceived as intuitive, because they are able to read queues from students and assess the most important points quickly.

The third virtue is “The GPS Reflex,” which basically means the ability to give short instructions at just the right time to enable skill to continue to develop to finer and finer points. On a GPS system navigating a city it might be “turn left in 100 feet”; in a piano lesson it may be “drop your shoulders” or  “take up”.  So, the master teacher has the exact right direction at the right time without too many words.

The forth virtue is “Theatrical Honesty”. The ability to state the lesson in terms that are the most readily and easily absorbable is ideal.  Using exaggeration, lightness, and humor at the right points in time help relieve stress and  promote good feelings. The picture below of Dr. Suzuki teaching an American student is a great example of theatrical honesty, and an appropriate ending to this series on Talent Education and The Talent Code.


1. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

2.  Also known as the “Suzuki Method”, The      Talent Education Research Institute in    Matsumoto Japan is the school Dr. Suzuki    founded to train teachers and students.

3. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, p. 162

4. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, p. 179

5.  Matrix definition form

6.  How to Teach Beginners by Dr. Kataoka