Entries in great lakes taiko center (14)


A Special Visit and Taiko Workshops

Last week the students of the Great Lakes Taiko Center were privileged to have a visit and workshop from Takeru Matsushita of Wadaiko Yamato The Drummers of Japan.

Our relationship with Yamato goes back to 1999, long before we ever dreamed of opening our own taiko school in Michigan. Over the years, that relationship has been a big part of the success of the Great Lakes Taiko Center and I can say without hesitation that if that connection did not exist, it is likely the Great Lakes Taiko Center would not exist either.  We owe them a debt of gratitude and are grateful for the continued relationship.

On Tuesday, November 5. Takeru-san visited our Taiko Center for two workshops. The first was a 60 minute workshop for our younger students. The average age was probably around 9 years old, but we did have a 3-year-old (!) student who participated as well.  Takeru san taught a simple song and then worked with participants on playing expressively, playing together (not just at the same time) and being able to get into kamae (a ready stance) as quickly as possible. Everyone had a great time, laughed a lot and learned a lot.

Later, Takeru-san led a two-hour workshop for our adult students. We had participants with many years of experience, as well as some that had only began learning taiko 3 weeks prior. Although it may have been a little intimidating for the newer students at first, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

In the second workshop we learned many “secret” tips about playing stance, why it is important to be able to “sing” a song, not just play it on the drum and playing together. We even tried an enlightening exercise where pairs had to hold hands and play one drum.

We are happy that we could have two great workshops. We all learned a lot and hope that we can use what we learned to become even better taiko players.  Would you like to learn the “secret” tips we got from these workshops? Then I guess you’ll have to sign up for a taiko class ... and you can do that right here: Taiko Classes.

Thank you, Takeru-san! We hope you can come to visit again soon!


Taiko at the World Series - Detroit Tigers


At the Taiko Center, we have had a few opportunities to perform outdoors in downtown Detroit. It is always a unique and fun experience to be surrounded by the big buildings, a lot of people and to hear the deep sounds of taiko drums echoing around the city.

So when the Detroit Tigers made the playoffs last month, I decided that if they could make it to the World Series, the Taiko Center would pack up the drums, go down to the game and cheer on the Tigers from the streets.

Once they punched their ticket to the World Series, through the connections of one of our students, we were able to get a spot right along Woodward in front of Comerica Park. We arrived on site at 5 PM, set up the drums and started playing on and off up until the game began around 8 PM. Once the sun went down it was pretty cold, so we kept playing from time to time to stay warm. Many people stopped to listen on their way to the game, took pictures, videos, stoped to chat and so on. Many people looked happy to see us. I hope we brought some joy to everyone who was down in the city.


Unfortunately, the Tigers lost that night and went on to get swept by the Giants the following day. We still enjoyed performing and since the Tigers are favored to get back to the World Series in 2013, we may just have to plan on heading down again.

See more pictures at our Facebook Page.



Learning Miyake Taiko at the Great Lakes Taiko Center

This past spring, we decided to challenge our Kids/Youth class (2nd - 5th grade) to learn a challenging taiko piece. The piece was made famous by the KODO drummers, who learned it from the Tsumuras of Miyake-Jima.

Miyake Taiko is one of those pieces that probably just about every taiko group has attempted, or at least desired to perform. The piece is simple. It is basically one phrase repeated over and over, but the form is physically challenging. It requires a good amount of endurance as well as significant flexibility. For most adults, unless you've been playing this piece since you were a child, it is probably not possible to achieve the ideal flexibility for this song. It requires that you squat with your feet apart and your buttocks as close to the floor as possible. Then the player must move back and forth parallel to the floor, keeping their back perpendicular. It is very difficult for most adults to achieve a low enough stance and therefore, if we choose to play the piece, we just have to accept whatever depth we can get to.

Kids, on the other hand, are still very flexible and most can move with proper form without a problem. Since late spring, we have been working with our Kids/Youth class (2nd - 5th grade, Mondays 6 - 7 PM) on the piece, Miyake Taiko and they will be performing it for the first time on Sept 29 and again on Oct 7. It is a challenging piece and although we still have a long way to go, they have made significant progress. Here is a video from this past Monday's class. Some of the students only joined the class a month ago, but they have been able to catch on quickly.

The Great Lakes Taiko Center offers classes for children and adults of all ages. If you live in South Eastern Michigan are interested in learning to play the taiko drums, please check our class offerings and find a class that would suit you, or send an email to raion.taiko@gmail.com to get more information.


Raion Taiko at Detroit Concert of Colors 2011


Yesterday Raion Taiko reached a major milestone (in my mind, at least) when we performed on the stage of Detroit's Orchestra Hall as a part of the 2011 Concert of Colors.  What a privilege and honor to be a featured performer at such a wonderful hall, one of the top 3 halls acoustically in North America. When Mayumi and I first formed Raion Taiko back in 2005, I never dreamed that we would make it to Orchestra Hall.

Orchestra Hall is the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra and has hosted many national and international acts, which is evidenced by all the signatures on the backstage walls. Including one that we were especially delighted to discover yesterday ...

When I was in high school, I played violin in the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra and we rehearsed at Orchestra Hall every Saturday, so I was well aware of the hall's acoustic qualities and it's reputation. As we were setting up and preparing for our set, I stepped out into the audience to check the placement of the drums and I looked up and around at the hall and for a minute a wave of emotion washed over me as it sunk in that we were actually on the stage at Orchestra Hall.

The hall certainly lived up to its acoustic reputation. As a result, I think we were able to give one of our best performances yet.  It was hard to see very far out into the audience, but the response was good and I noticed several people in the front row who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves with big smiles on their faces. My cousin, who drove down from Saginaw to see us, told me there were even a couple dancers in the aisles in the back. It's amazing how the audience energy gives energy back to us on stage.

We ended with our arrangement of Yatai Bayashi (made famous through Kodo) and received a standing ovation, to our surprise.  Unfortunately, because of time restraints, we weren't able to end with our usual encore, Mushi Okuri.  We did get a big compliment after the show.  A man came down to the stage to ask me if we have ever seen Kodo perform to which I replied that we had several times.  He followed up with, "You guys are right up there with them, aren't you."  Of course, we know better, but it was still nice to hear.

If you missed us at Orchestra Hall, try to catch us at the Detroit Institute of Arts this Friday, July 22 at 7 and 8:30 PM.  You can always stay up to date on our performances through the Performances Page on this website and also by becoming a fan of our Facebook Page.



Kids Taiko Class


This week I am very excited for our Monday night kids taiko class for two reasons. First of all, the class is full! We have 8 kids and 8 kid-sized drums. We started our kids class back in February, but it was difficult to get it going. For a long time we only had one or two enrolled. But starting in the summer, the students slowly began to come and join and now there is no more room in the Monday class. Don't worry, we will work on starting another kids class.

The second reason I am excited, however, is even better. After practicing through the summer, this group ranging from 4 to 7 years old, is really starting to play well. Yesterday at the end of class, the students performed the song they are learning for their parents. It sounded great! They remember their parts, they're listening to each other and playing together. The moms and dads were very impressed with the progress they've made.

On October 3rd at Novi High School, our kids class will be able to perform this piece in public for the first time. They are very excited to be able to perform as a part of the Japan Festival in Novi, sponsored by JBSD.

We have two more weeks to practice hard for this event. I hope many people will come to see the performance!