After returning to Los Angeles from Tokyo we are back on the road again this time it’s up to Portland OR to perform with Portland Taiko for their annual home concert series Making Waves.
As many of you know Michelle Fujii who is now the Artistic Director of Portland Taiko was one of the first On Ensemble members. She performed with us from our US debut back in 2002 until she took the Artistic Directorship at Portland Taiko.
I first met Michelle in 1995 at the first collegiate taiko invitational. At the time she was the artistic director of UCLA Kyodo Taiko and I was leading Stanford Taiko. Since that moment I’ve known that she would be someone whose life would intersect with mine. The next time we met was right after graduation. I took a touring position with San Jose Taiko and Michelle was on staff with the group already.
I remember being on tour with her and going out to practice in the parking lot in the middle of Iowa. Though we both had our first paying jobs playing taiko we were both talking about going to Japan to further our interest and study in taiko and dance. The next time we met was in Japan. I was living and studying in Tokyo and Michelle was in Akita studying with Warabiza. It was at this time that we started talking more seriously about playing together.
When I started On Ensemble with Maz and Kris and I knew who would be a perfect fourth member: Michelle Fujii. The four of us put together a rag tag tour of the West Coast. We spent a very intense residency in Mt. Shasta coming up with new material for the group and practicing long hard hours. Looking back at that time I think it was a formative time for all of us. We were starting to find our own unique creative voices.
Michelle was instrumental in the formation of On Ensemble. It was a crazy time in our lives. Michelle was splitting time between Los Angeles, Portland and Akita. Maz was living in Hawai’i then Tokyo and Kris and I were in Los Angeles trying to establish our group. It was also a magical time. We got to be there when Michelle was developing her first pieces and her unique voice as an artist.âÂ¨âÂ¨Eventually Michelle was offered the artistic director position at Portland Taiko and I knew it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Though we had naive ideas about being able to keep playing together the reality of the time and energy it took to keep Portland Taiko and On Ensemble advancing meant we haven’t been able to play together as much as we both would’ve liked. So this joint concert has special meaning. We are no longer the young starry-eyed naive artists we were. We are entering a new stage as artists where we are more mature (hopefully) our creative voices are stronger and we know that moments like these are too be cherished. We are looking forward to sharing the stage again with Michelle. See you at the concert!