Archive for January, 2011

Matsuri Daiko two-person arrangement

Friday, January 14th, 2011

To my delight, the first half of this tour involved a lot of slant-drum playing, my current taiko passion. Here is a video of one of our demonstrations.

Watching this video, I see so many things I need to work on. I can’t wait to get back to my regular practice schedule after tour!

Cross-country tour: Day 16

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Hello from Toronto!  It’s been a crazy and wonderful few days!

After our second showcase at the Association for Performing Arts Presenters conference in New York City, we made a late-night drive to Woburn MA, to visit Odaiko New England.  Some taiko friends, Joy, Beth, and Tanya, used the private lesson coupons I gave them for their help with Taiko Games. We spent the afternoon playing bon taiko and Maz taught a flute private lesson as well. We then taught one of our new workshops, Advanced Renshuu, to the whole group. It was a ton of fun and I was impressed with how readily everyone picked up the new arrangement.

One of the highlights of the stay for me was Tanya’s vegan, vegetable chile on baked yam. Nothing like a warm yam after shorts in winter! Tanya gave me the recipe so you’ll likely see the dish on What We’re Eating in the not-too-distant future.

Thank you Juni for all your work arranging the workshop and to everyone at Odaiko New England!

After Woburn, we headed across the border to visit our neighbors to the north, Arashi Daiko in Montreal. The members of Arashi and their student group, Inazuma, prepared an elaborate pot-luck feast. It was filled with vegan delights including a feau-pork dish that Shoji said was, “better than the real thing”. We taught Intro to Timing and Inazuma was wonderfully engaged and receptive to the concepts. Teaching timing is one of the biggest challenges for us because it’s both difficult and subtle, but Inazuma made dramatic strides, even in our short time together.

Thank you Arashi Daiko and Inazuma!

That night we stayed with two very hospitable members of the Arashi family, Catherine and Veronique. They very generously let us sleep at their apartments, despite our trailer parking requirements and crazy hours. It turns out that Catherine decided to try taiko after seeing On Ensemble perform in Montreal in 2006. Yahoo! We had to take a photo!

The next day we loaded into the theater for a performance organized by long-time On Ensemble collaborator, Patrick Graham. It was one of the events we were most looking forward to. Patrick wrote two, new pieces for the performance and despite limited rehearsal time, we were able to pull them together for the show. I made an embarrassing tuning error in After Rain (in my sleep-deprived state, I tuned for Gengakki) but Patrick and the rest of On Ensemble found a way to roll with the punches. After the show Maz said, “I was kind-of into it… with all those new flats and sharps you don’t usually hear in After Rain.” I’m castigating myself by only wearing shorts for the rest of tour.

The turnout at Sala Rossa was great and the audience was extremely encouraging… only increasing our love for Montreal. What a great place!

Once Patrick recovers from producing the concert, I’ll try and talk him into guest-blogging about the show. He’ll be coming to Los Angeles in February in preparation for our big performance in March at Cerritos Center. Lots of QT with Patrick planned in 2011!

We woke up early the next morning and made our way to Toronto where, Kelvin and I taught Intro to Timing again. We were invited by the delightful, RAW Taiko Drummers. RAW stands for Raging Asian Women, and the group is involved in social activism here in Toronto. When Kelvin heard the name, “Raging Asian Women”, he said, “I like that!… we should change On Ensemble’s name to The Raging Asian Caucasian Cajun Persuasion!” Vote +1!

After the workshop, RAW took us out to delicious Chinese food at one of their go-to spots. Thank you for the food, fun, and taiko exploration, RAW!

Next we head to Bowling Green OH, returning state-side for the remainder of the tour. More soon!

Workshop Reflections

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

It’s been about 4 days since I took the soloing and improvisation workshop with Maz and Kris, and there are still so many things milling around in my mind.

We focused on a lot: different types of soloing and improvisations techniques, movement, structuring coherent solos, small drum technique, and various solo games. Kris and Maz had endless words of encouragement, and were very helpful with things that we could continue to work on. It was definitely an inspiring experience, and hopefully I’ll be able to stick with practicing daily (it only takes one missed day for everything to fall apart!).

Taking a workshop or an intensive always helps ground me in my taiko journey. I notice that I tend to get very pensive after receiving instruction. I think a lot about where I am as a player, and the steps I need to take to improve. Because of my position within Icho Daiko, I end up having to focus a lot of my energies toward teaching and helping others develop their skills. Of course, in the back of my mind I know I should practice what I preach, but sometimes it does help to have a little nudge. Having been an instructor for so long, I have developed my teaching style, and it’s easy for me to focus. When I’m left alone to practice on my own, I always seem to be at a loss of which path I should take.

The workshop with Maz and Kris helped me realize where my strengths and weaknesses are. I was (and am) very grateful to have them come out and share their knowledge. And I have that nudge I needed. I’ll keep going down the path I’ve chosen in terms of practice, and hopefully be able to increase my skills as I grow as a student and teacher of taiko.

Thank you, Maz and Kris!

Introducing guest blogger: Maryll Phillips

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Maryll is the foundation of Icho Daiko in Cleveland OH, and a long-time friend of On Ensemble. She recently invited us for an Improvisation Intensive workshop and we had a great time. I was really impressed with Maryll’s diligence and curiosity, and her slant playing form looked fantastic. Thank you for hosting us, Maryll!

Engine Room: Lopsy Lift B example run

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Hiya Dan and Maryll! Here is a recording of that tricky rhythm from Engine Room. I hope it’s helpful. Good luck with your arrangement!

30 Days to Better Shime, Ice Skater example run

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Here is a quick video showing two runs through the Ice Skater drill. The goal of Ice Skater is to improve our non-dominant hand, single-stroke roll speed. Happy practicing!

Cross-country tour: Day 11

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

We made it to NYC! But not without a few bumps in the road…

After snowy Cleveland we left late in the morning for Pittsburgh, hoping a delayed departure would improve road conditions. It turned out the roads were fine, but our van had issues. It was idling rough and didn’t have sufficient power when climbing. As we pulled into Pittsburgh, the check-engine light came on. The GPS found Mark’s Automotive Repair and Mark agreed to take a speedy look at it. While we waited in the lobby, I recorded another 30 Days to Better Shime video (coming soon) and we chatted with the friendly locals. It was surprisingly fun, actually. Mark’s shop should be the setting of a sitcom; all the regulars are real characters and it seems to be the rule that anyone who enters must have a charming accent and unique mannerisms.

Thank you, Mark! I checked the Mechanics Files at and your shop didn’t have a review. I’ve added one and it should show up soon. Best of luck with everything and thank you again!

We got to the University of Pittsburgh just in time for our workshop. We taught Improvisation 101 and everyone did a fantastic job. I hope Pittsburgh Taiko had as much fun as we did!

Shoji and Kelvin flew into Pittsburgh and have joined us for the remainder of the tour. The full quartet is in effect! More fun to come!

Taiko amidst the snow storms – 4 hours with Kris and Maz

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Thursday started off early as Maryll and I headed up to our practice space around 11:00 am to make sure everything was in order for our workshop and also to get our wrists nice and warmed up. While I warmed up with some of the drills I learned from 30 Days to Better Shime I couldn’t help but get more and more excited with each passing minute.

“I can’t believe Kris and Maz are going to be here soon!”


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