Author: Karen Tingey

Paul Comery

My first experience with taiko was as an audience member at the Portland Obon Festival and Seattle’s Folklife Festival. I joined Portland Taiko in 1997, as a member of Portland Youth Taiko, which later became Tanuki Taiko, and I am currently a performer and instructor. Practicing taiko provides a creative outlet, physical and mental exercise, and a spiritual focus akin to meditation. Best memories include drinking vending-machine beer in Tokyo at midnight on my birthday, playing in front on 10,000+ people in Salt Lake City, and dancing and partying with taiko players from all over the country at the North American Taiko Conference. < Back

Introduction to Odaiko and Shime

The odaiko (big drum) and shime (small rope-tied drum) are the heartbeat and backbone of a taiko ensemble. In addition to learning the basics of playing these drums, participants will be able to develop their taiko skills with exercises in improvisation, soloing, and stick technique. Class sessions will also include discussion of taiko in Japan and the origins of kumidaiko (group drumming). Prerequisite: Taiko 101/one session of PT classes, or equivalent.

Power taiko: HA!

This high-energy class will emphasize spirit and perseverance as students learn PT’s signature piece, HA! Students will learn how kata (good form), kiai (voice), and koshi (using your core), create a full-body experience that will generate a good sound, high energy, and group cohesion. Prerequisite: Taiko 101/one session of PT classes, or equivalent.

Naname Fundamentals

This class will focus on naname (slant-stand) stance, form, and hits, while also touching on the basics of soloing. Students will review Renshu Daiko, a “practice” piece that includes all the basic ways of hitting the drum, and learn how to keep time. Class sessions will also provide an overview of Portland Taiko’s history. Prerequisite: Taiko 101/one session of PT classes, or equivalent.

Movement and Matsuri

This class will focus on Midare Matsuri, Portland Taiko’s take on traditional matsuri (festival) rhythms. Participants will learn drills highlighting choreography, soloing, and keeping time, as well as basic techniques for playing small hand percussion typically played for matsuri. Class sessions will also explore the history of taiko in North America. Prerequisite: Taiko 101/one session of PT classes, or equivalent.

Avis Newell

I first experienced Taiko in the mid 1980’s at a folk festival in Seattle, and loved it so much I kept my eyes open for more. I attended Portland Taiko concerts whenever I could once I moved to Portland. Last summer, my husband and I went to Symphony in the Park, making sure we caught the pre-concert Portland Taiko performance. That’s where we heard about Taiko lessons and we both signed up on the spot! Turns out I love drumming as much as I love listening to it. Last year I retired from work as an environmental scientist, so when I heard of an open board position, I decided to change careers and focus on supporting the arts.

Zoe Beyler

I started taiko when I was in second grade at the Japanese Immersion school I went to. I played with En Taiko for 8 years. After taking classes in the spring of 2016, I joined Portland Taiko as a trainee in fall 2016. I love being in Portland Taiko because of the variety of fun and interesting repertoire, but maybe more so because of the strong sense of cooperation and community. Getting to perform taiko for others and being part of the taiko community is an important part of my life. As a high school junior I am a musician, currently playing percussion in our school band and drums in the jazz lab, as well as percussion in The Portland Youth Philharmonic. < Back

Concert day is almost here!

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Practicing for HA!

Our big fall concert with TaikoProject is this Sunday! We’ve been hard at work refining our pieces and planning out the logistics – like how to get the huge Shoji Odaiko out of its storage and to Catlin Gabel’s theater. Portland Taiko will be playing the first half of the show, and TaikoProject will play the second half. One of the especially fun parts of preparing for this concert is that PT will be joining TP for their last song, so we’ve been learning by video, and will put it all together on Saturday night.

At our show at Washington Park over the summer, we were able to bring back an old community-based composition, A Place Called Home. We’re presenting that piece again in this concert (again with the help of PT founder June Schumann!), and we’ve made a few changes to enhance how the story of the piece is told. For me as a long-time member of Portland Taiko, this piece represents one of the truly special things about PT – a piece composed by the group, based on interviews with community members, with real meaning behind it.

Please come out and see us on Sunday!

Our new website

We’ve updated the look and content of our site – take a look around! You can always find the latest news here on the front page – to see old posts, look under the “About” menu for the archives. You’ll see our upcoming public performances on the front page, too.

On August 7, we had a successful full-length concert at Washington Park, as part of Portland Parks & Recreation’s Summer Festival series. Highlights included a collaboration with Portland Lee’s Association Lion Dance team, the return of Rachel Ebora as a performer, and bringing back some old favorite pieces we haven’t played in a while, such as To Fly (composed by Ann Ishimaru for fue, violin, and taiko), Forest Festival (part of Kenny Endo’s piece Wind, Water, Wood), Kaza Guruma (composed by Ringtaro Tateishi for Portland Taiko), and A Place Called Home, one of our community-based compositions from 2001. 

We look forward to seeing you at our fall concert on October 16, where we’ll host internationally-acclaimed group TaikoProject!

Meredith Wood

Growing up as one of the only Asian American kids, taiko gave me the opportunity to explore my heritage as well as interact with kids outside of my school. Through taiko, I gained self-confidence and learned perseverance. I started playing taiko when I was 13 years old. My mom signed me up for Portland Taiko’s kids camp and since then I’ve never stopped playing! After kids camp I joined Portland Taiko’s youth taiko group, Tanuki Taiko. I played with Tanuki Taiko through high school. After high school, I attended University of Oregon in Eugene. In college, I played with Eugene’s community taiko group, Eugene Taiko. Later two of my friends and I started University of Oregon’s collegiate taiko group, Ahiru Daiko. When I look back at my life thus far, many of my happy memories involve taiko. I love the bond that I feel with other taiko players and the power I feel when I hit a taiko. I could not imagine my life without taiko.

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Dan Chin

I first saw taiko at an outdoor festival in Taiwan and attended a beginning taiko workshop after moving to Portland. I eventually joined Portland Taiko as a performing member and was active for nine years. After a short break, I returned to the organization in 2016 and I’m glad I did. PT is such a welcoming and supportive community—outside of family, it’s hard to find that in other aspects of life. It’s great to play rhythms in such a physically expressive manner. Some of my fondest musical memories include drums and percussion—whether in orchestra, jazz bands, marching bands, or steel drum ensembles. For that, I’m thankful to continue drumming with Portland Taiko.

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Toshiki Chiba

I have been affiliated with Portland Taiko since 2010, first as a summer student, then as a performer. Taiko was like nothing I’d ever done before and I became hooked. One of my favorite experiences playing taiko was at an outdoor performance at Washington Park in 2014, where thousands of people watched our high-energy performance. I’m a high school senior and I play percussion in our symphonic band and drum set in our jazz band. Playing taiko is one of my greatest joys in life as I get to express my musical joy with a bunch of great people/mentors who also share this passion. < Back

Linda Crum

My first encounter with Portland Taiko was attending their very first concert, and I’ve loved the music ever since. I serve on the Board of Directors, and love being a donor, audience member, and general dogsbody. While now retired, I spent thirty years in early childhood education where I was privileged to see young children experience the excitement of music. One of my favorite taiko experiences was a concert many years ago that featured then Oregon Poet Laureate, Lawson Inada—a great combination of words and music. I live at the Terwilliger Plaza retirement community with my husband of almost 51 years, himself a former drummer. We have 2 children and 7 grandchildren.

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Krista Ede

I am a North Clackamas Learning Specialist by day and Taiko Mama by night. My husband Rob and I have three beautiful children: Ricky, Abby, and Jaisa. After my first Portland Taiko workshop in 2001, I was instantly addicted to the power of the drum and eventually became a performer in 2004. Highlights include the group’s trips to Hawaii and Japan. I enjoy the family spirit within Portland Taiko, learning the early roots of PT’s history, and exploring new and complicated pieces. 

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Kelsey Furuta

(Artistic Leadership Team, Performance Coordinator)

One of my most memorable taiko experiences was at the Regional Taiko Gathering, held in my hometown of Seattle in 1998. I had been playing with my youth group for about 5 years, but when Portland Taiko took the stage, I immediately knew that I wanted to join them someday. After performing with Tsunami Taiko in Seattle, TaikoProject in Los Angeles, and Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble in Honolulu, I joined Portland Taiko in 2009. I enjoy teaching (I’m a stickler for basics and details!) and I love performing. Someone once told me that I’m much more animated on stage than I am in life. Growing up, I was an extremely shy and quiet kid. But when I found taiko, it felt amazing. I loved being a LOUD and strong little Japanese American girl! These days, taiko resonates with me for many different reasons, but I will always remember how I felt when I first hit the drums. When I’m not taiko-ing, I’m chasing around my toddler! 

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Michael Hale

(Volunteer)

My first experience of Portland Taiko was a performance at the Chiles Center at the University of Portland. I came to the organization in 2004, in response to a request for volunteers in a PT newsletter for “2 hours a week.”  Ever since then, I have volunteered in the office as database support, network support, software consultant, and impartial ear. I enjoy bringing order to the data chaos when no one else has the time. I love hearing the development of pieces over time. I like big music, just like taiko. I volunteer as a tax preparer through CASH Oregon/AARP, and chair of the Architectural Review Committee of the Orenco Station HOA. I previously worked for Bank of America. I’ve been married 50 years; we have two grown married children who both live in the Portland area.

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Akihiro Harada

My first performance as a trainee with Portland Taiko was at a workshop in the Central Library in April 2016. Since then, I’ve learned pieces such as Ha!, Unity, To Fly, Amaterasu, and Midare Matsuri, and I like them all because they require different techniques. At each practice, one of the artistic directors introduces a rhythmic drill. Sometimes I can get it within the given time, but sometimes I can’t. In either case, I enjoy working with PT members on all these new musical challenges. I joined the organization as a trainee in 2016 and am currently a full member.

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Kana Heshiki

I first experienced taiko at a performance by Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko in 2007. Five years later, I enrolled in classes with Portland Taiko and joined the community group in 2013. I like the sound of the taiko. When I hit the taiko and focus on the movements and rhythms, I am able to disconnect from all the day’s stresses. I enjoy performing at community events, collaborating with other instrumentalists, building drums, learning about taiko and Japanese American history, and continuing the journey of learning taiko. I live in Portland with my husband and 4-year-old corgi. < Back

Matthew Kertesz

I joined Portland Taiko as a trainee in 2015 after playing with Emeryville Taiko for many years. I appreciate the community spirit of the group and how it succeeds in bringing together a diverse group of people into a powerful, talented whole. I have always loved taiko’s blend of community, physicality, and sound. My favorite taiko moment was the first time I hit a drum and felt it through my whole being. I teach English Language Development to middle school students. My wife and I recently became full members of Portland Taiko.

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Wynn Kiyama

(Executive Director)

When I was a kid, my parents signed me up for classes with San Jose Junior Taiko. Years later, I started playing taiko taiko again with Soh Daiko in New York City. The group demanded an intense work ethic and commitment, but along the way, I experienced joy, pride, and a heart-warming sense of community. Joining Portland Taiko has renewed all of those feelings and I’m thrilled to be working and playing with such an amazing group of people! My greatest achievement has been turning my 4-year-old into a taiko drummer and bon odori enthusiast.

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Lisa Minakami

My first experience with taiko was taking a beginner class with Emeryville Taiko. I loved how it immediately cleared my mind and made me forget about the day’s stresses. I drummed with Emeryville Taiko for eight years until moving to Portland. I played the flute in high school and have had some success at transferring those skills over to playing the fue. I also played the ukulele while growing up in Hawaii and would love to find the time to pick that up again. I am a structural engineer with the City of Portland. My husband and I started taking classes with PT in 2015 and we are now full members. We have a tuxedo cat named Picasso. Playing taiko is a fun way to not be a couch potato! 

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Valerie Otani

I first saw taiko at the Cherry Blossom Parade in San Francisco. Big drums and dynamic playing on a float is still a dream I hope Portland Taiko can realize. I was part of the group that created Portland Taiko in 1994. I was intrigued by an art form that expressed cultural pride in a bold, commanding, and joyful way. I have been on the Board of Directors and worked on costumes and sets, but mostly I have been our internal ombudsperson. As a naturally shy person, taiko has helped me grow. One of my favorite memories was playing in the Oregon State Prison for the Asian club. It was very moving to express power and pride to prisoners who might not feel that way in their lives. I am an artist and arts administrator, deeply involved in the local Japanese American community. My husband is very supportive! Both of our sons played taiko and Kenji was one of the original members of PT when he was in high school. < Back

Carolyn Saiget

As a Sansei, I’ve found that cultural traditions like taiko connect me to my heritage and my Japanese-American identity. I am always impressed with the energy and talent embodied in Portland Taiko performances. Through the Oregon Buddhist Temple, I have danced to the beat of the taiko at Obon and have attended taiko workshops. While I lack the stamina and talent to ever be a performer, I think I make up for it with my enthusiasm, respect, and support for those who do. In addition to Portland Taiko, I volunteer with the Camas Education Foundation and the Oregon Buddhist Temple. As a “retired” teacher, I have more time to enjoy sewing projects and traveling. My husband, Bill, and I have three adult sons. I joined the Portland Taiko Board of Directors in December 2015. 

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John Schumann

(Board Treasurer)

I worked in the railroad industry as an engineer, manager, and senior consultant for over forty years. Simultaneously I have supported and advocated for classical music as a board member of All Classical Public Media, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Choral Arts Ensemble, 45th Parallel Chamber Music, and Northwest Piano Trio. I recently joined Portland Taiko’s Board of Directors, but I have been a fan of Portland Taiko since its debut season in 1994. I enjoy the intimate works with taiko and strings, and one of my favorite memories of PT was Ann and Zack performing Confluence together.

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Lisa Tamura

Playing taiko stretches a different part of my brain than in my working life as a civil engineer. My first experience with taiko was seeing drummers in Southern California. I joined Portland Taiko in the spring of 1998 after attending a taiko workshop. From that first workshop I transitioned into a full performing member and continued to help teach beginning and intermediate classes. Some of my most memorable experiences involve interactions with the audience: it is fun to see so many smiling faces and hear folks talk about how inspired they feel after attending a performance.

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Karen Tingey

(Artistic Leadership Team)

I first started learning taiko in 1993 with Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo. When I moved to Portland in 2001, I joined Portland Taiko. I like that most of our repertoire is original, and I especially enjoy some of the more melodic pieces that incorporate violin. The first community-based composition I was a part of, A Place Called Home, was a memorable and educational experience for me. What I love about taiko is that it combines music and dance, two lifelong endeavors of mine. The best part of playing and performing for me is the connections that we make with each other and with the audience.  One performance that will always stand out for me was the CD release party for our Big Bang. We played very close to our audience, and my son, who was less than a year old at the time, was sitting just a few feet away from me. When we played Ha!, which Kristy and I had composed while I was pregnant, he bounced up and down with joy, his face alight. That baby just entered high school, and my husband Jeff and I also have a daughter in elementary school. Both are in the Japanese Magnet Program. By day I’m a software engineer for Intuit. I love gardening and cooking, dabbling in guitar, ukulele, and recently, the cello.

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Megumi Uehara

A Portland Taiko performance in 2003 was my first experience with taiko, despite my upbringing in Japan. I instantly loved the art of taiko and the experience with the whole body. Even though I had no musical background, I was invited to audition as a performer after enrolling in taiko classes, and I now enjoy sharing the art with others. Staying connected to my roots and being associated with PT’s talented performers is very rewarding, but the best part is relieving stress by beating on drums!

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Chad Williams

My first exposure to taiko was at a kite festival in Long Beach, Washington, and it happened to be Portland Taiko! I joined the performance group in 2004 and the Board of Directors in 2011. Thinking back to my childhood, I was most influenced by arts education. I love how a taiko performance or workshop leaves such a lasting impression on its participants. One of my favorite PT moments was having the opportunity to perform for patients at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem—it was very rewarding to see their faces light up. < Back

Keiko Araki

(Artistic Leadership Team)

I first saw taiko at the Powell Street Festival in Vancouver, BC, and became involved with Portland Taiko as a volunteer and class member. Since 2008, I have been a performer, artistic staff member, beginning class instructor, violinist, composer, cowbell player, and van backer-upper. I enjoy feeling a deep connection to the community through our mission-driven work, and I am proud to be able to carry on the PT tradition (started by the founding directors Ann and Zack) of featuring the violin in our repertoire. Some of my favorite taiko memories include the Minidoka Pilgrimage in 2010 and unexpected moments during live performances (Toshiki broke a bachi during his solo! Lisa’s drum started to roll towards the edge of the stage in the middle of Amaterasu!). I also perform onstage (and knit backstage) as a member of the Oregon Symphony violin section, haunt Portland’s yarn shops, conduct culinary experiments for my husband, Adam, and nap with my tuxedo cat.

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Washington Park Summer Festival

August 7, 6 pm
Washington Park | link
This free summer concert is a full-length extravaganza in Washington Park’s amphitheater. We’ve been working hard to bring back some old favorites we haven’t played in a while, as well as on a collaboration with Portland Lee’s Association lion dance team. And of course we’ll also be playing some of our standard pieces our audiences know and love. Hope to see you there!