Category: performers

Nick Kettman

I began with Portland Taiko as a student in 2016. Although I’ve been playing various forms of percussion since the age of 11, I never had the opportunity to get behind a taiko drum until that first class. I knew immediately it was something that would become a regular part of my life. I joined Portland Taiko as a trainee in 2019. I love that taiko is capable of expressing such a wide range of emotions, from earth-shaking power to quiet introspection. I especially enjoy playing with others—even with such diverse backgrounds, we can all share a common language through music. My full-time profession is electronics engineer, and I also work as an amateur artist producing costume masks and prop replicas.

Toa Suruki

Before taking classes with Portland Taiko, I always took taiko for granted. I was definitely a person who always thought taiko was just a supporting role for all the Nikkei festivals and was never the main attractions at events. When I moved up to Portland from Los Angeles in 2014, I realized I had to make an effort to connect to my roots so I signed up for Portland Taiko classes in 2015. I was immediately hooked from my first class and it definitely redefined my thoughts about taiko. Looking back at my first classes with Portland Taiko, I was very lucky that my cohort consisted only four people…including the instructor ( Paul! ). I say “lucky” because all three of were able to get SO MUCH attention from the instructor and really work on our basics; which of course helped me in the long run. I play taiko today to keep me connected to my roots and to keep challenging my body and mind.

Karen Chu

I was first exposed to taiko my first year at UCLA and was immediately drawn to the rhythms I heard on campus during a performance. I began taking classes at San Francisco Taiko Dojo during my summer and winter breaks throughout college since then. I took a break when I went to graduate school and after 6 years, I am excited that I discovered Portland Taiko upon recently moving here and to be able to play again. Hitting and dancing around taiko drums reminds me of the ecstatic feeling I get from playing taiko. My first taiko performance was at the 2019 Portland Taiko Bonenkai. As a trainee, I am really looking forward to endless learning and improvement as well as getting to know the community better! I am a civil and environmental engineer by day and during my spare time, you can find me outdoors, at the climbing gym, or planning for my next backpacking adventure.

Donovan Carrillo

I started playing taiko when I was 12, when my parents and I all signed up for a beginning taiko class with Shinsho Mugen Daiko. While at first it was just something fun to do with my parents, I soon found it provided a physical and mental challenge that school, and later working as a hardware engineer, could not. Taiko has been a great way for me to connect to new communities whenever I changed location; the shared experience of learning and performing together, combined with the powerful sound of the taiko, helped create connections that were otherwise difficult for me. I spent four years in Colorado Springs after college, playing with the newly formed Taiko Society, before moving to Portland in 2016. I started taking classes with Portland Taiko that year and became a trainee in 2017. I look forward to many new adventures with Portland Taiko!

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

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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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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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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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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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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