Archive for March, 2014

New LATI courses starting soon!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Yuta is back from touring in Spain with the great Chieko Kojima and we’re getting ready for his new set of courses to begin. I’m particularly excited about his naname slant solo preparation course. It’s perfectly timed in preparation for the July battle at the World Taiko Gathering!

As always, we have a week of free trial lessons happening too! Come check out the facility and the drums!

More info at LATI’s list of courses.

What a wedding it was!

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Maz and Courtney’s wedding was absolutely wonderful! In fact, it sort-of won me over to weddings.

I’m not big on marriage. The idea of promising to be with someone forever has never made sense to me. If others want to get married, of course I’m happy to let them, but my sentiments generally boil down to: “anti-marriage, pro-gay-marriage”. So big weddings with lots of hoopla have never been my thing.

But Maz and Courtney’s wedding was awesome.

It was BIG. There were more than 200 guests and Maz and Courtney had reserved the fountain area of Soka University, an immense open area with white granite and blue water. It’s a striking space and the weather was perfectly sunny. The seats had been decorated with hand-made taiko-shaped shakers and Abe Lagrimas played ukulele as we arrived. The ceremony was conducted by Bishop Noriaki of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. His speech was fantastic, emphasizing the joy of shared experience and the couples’ connections to the larger community. Maz and Courtney’s vows were incredibly sweet, but not sappy. Once married, Maz and Courtney exited to a recording of a new track the two had recorded together. It sounded great. The whole thing felt honest and creative and fun.

We were treated to dinner, toasts by family and friends, musical performances by Courtney’s mother, Kenny Endo, and On Ensemble, and finally a dance. I use the word “treated” because what struck me most about the wedding was the way we guests were made to feel so appreciated by Courtney and Maz. I expected the wedding to focus on us celebrating them. Instead, at every turn, it felt like we were the ones being celebrated. Maz and Courtney used the wedding as an opportunity to thank their friends and family, and to tell us how much we’re loved. The two of them put months of work into finding ways to make us feel special and it felt like an event that could only be accomplished by a creative, productive, loving couple. I was deeply moved.

The bike rides there and back were great. It was hard — 70 miles is just about the max for my knees and bottom — but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The new bike (review coming soon) was amazing, and the bike-centric GPS worked like a charm to get me there, including bike trails and dirt paths where possible. The return ride was easier physically (somehow my knees didn’t really hurt) and psychologically (knowing the route made it feel much shorter) but harder emotionally. I left the wedding at 11pm and rode all night, thinking how tired I’d be when teaching the next day (Sundays I teach for 8.75 hours). I got home at 5:30am, showered, and headed to the Institute. Miraculously, my classes all went really well. I came home and slept for 10 hours.

Here are some photos from the trip. I was too busy having fun to take many photos at the wedding itself but thankfully, professional photographers were everywhere so I’m sure Maz will have more extensive photos coming soon.











Hello from Aliso Viejo

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

It’s Maz’ wedding day! The wedding reception rehearsal yesterday went really smoothly and this morning Shoji and I will load in the sound equipment and get ready for the celebrations. In a matter of hours, Maz will be married!

We’re off to see the wedding… the wonderful wedding of Maz!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

I’m so excited about this weekend celebrating Maz and Courtney! They have succeeded in designing the perfect event, even for an anti-event homebody like me.

You see, I generally do not dress up, and this is a problem for wedding attendance. I am a fan of the humble t-shirt, the most egalitarian of clothing items. So when Maz indicated gently that this wedding would not be a come-as-you-are affair, and subsequently rejected my proposal to wear a bridesmaid’s dress, I was disconcerted. Nothing I own would suffice. Well, leave it to Maz…

Maz has rented the groomsmen tuxedos. Yes, Shoji and I will be wearing tuxedos. And not only did Maz arrange the whole thing, but he will personally deliver the tuxedos to the dressing room. Even at his own wedding, Maz makes others feel like the star.

Generally speaking, one’s attire connotes one’s sense of the significance of an event. Without this form of expression at my disposal, I have resorted to the measure, “distance-biked-to-be-here”. So I am excited to make my first long-distance ride on my new bike for the wedding, and my longest, single-day distance yet. Here again, Maz has revealed his considerate nature by choosing a delightful venue, precisely 70mi from my apartment. I would have happily ridden farther, but appreciate the gesture.

And so it is with happy thoughts of soon seeing Maz and Courtney and family and friends that I depart! Aliso Viejo, here we come!


Maz’ wedding!!!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

This weekend, On Ensemble’s own Masato Baba will marry the great Courtney Deguchi! We’re terribly excited about the festivities, happening in Aliso Viejo. It will be a full day of merriment, with Kenny Endo, TaikoProject, On Ensemble, and Abe Lagrimas making music. Fun fun!

Photos to come!

East Coast Workshops

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014


At the end of this month I’ll be heading out to Chicago to lead a weekend intensive for Ho Etsu Taiko one of the Midwest’s leading taiko groups. After Chicago I’ll be going to New York and will be giving two workshops on April 5th at the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center:

Lion Chant Workshop 1 : Interlocking Rhythms
This workshop will introduce participants to components of Shoji’s newest piece taiko composition: Lion Chant. Focusing on simple independence this workshop will focus on the timing and technique required for creating dense layers of interlocking rhythms. This workshop will also teach part of the structure of the piece Lion Chant and will lay the foundation for learning and performing the composition. Limited to 12 participants

Mastering Omiyage
This workshop will focus on refining the technique and concepts behind Omiyage. One of the taiko world’s most exciting and performed compositions Omiyage is now performed by taiko groups throughout the world. Learn to master the subtleties of the movements and composition from the creator himself. Limited to 12 participants

10 am to 1 pm: Lion Chant
1 pm lunch
2 to 5 pm: Omiyage

Fee (includes lunch)
For KWTC members:
$55 for one workshop, $95 for both
For non-members:
$60 for one workshop, $105 for both
RSVP by emailing

Recent book reviews — March 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014


Sugamen work in progress

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

For the last year or so, Yuta and I have been working on an approach to playing fast rhythms as a duo. One person plays the downbeats and the other the upbeats, a technique called “sugagaki” in the shamisen world. For On Ensemble’s Works in Progress concert, we took the most successful rhythms thus far (two-person oroshi and drum-and-bass’ Amen break in two voicings) and slapped them together for a short demo we’re calling Sugamen.

Sugamen work in progress

I think the technique has lots of exciting potential. Since each person is only doing half the work, two players together can create impossibly fast, powerful strikes. Once you reach about 1000 hits-per-minute, the sound becomes a blur of power. I’m sure there are applications to odaiko and two-person naname and nidan, and multi-taiko set as well. We’ll continue to search for musical applications that benefit from the new-found range (hopefully without devolving into a non-musical skill-fest).

In addition to the musical uses, Yuta and I have felt an improvement in our ability to play complicated, syncopated rhythms and keep constant time. The hours of metronome practice and new way of feeling the pulse are likely helping. We’ve had a great time teaching the sugagaki method to participants of last month’s LATI’s Valentine’s Intensive too.

If you have ideas for how we might use sugagaki, or want to start practicing too*, let us know!

* The first 6 months of practice, for example, can be accomplished playing with an audio recording of the second-person part. Contact me for details.

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