San Jose Taiko

San Jose Taiko

San Jose, California, United States

Founded 1973

Basic Information

    Nonprofit Organization
    Executive Director, Artistic Director, Artistic Staff
    Professional Performing Arts Ensemble

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

Our Mission Humanity connected through cultural understanding, artistic expression, and rhythmic heartbeat. Advancing the taiko art form by evolving and raising the visibility of SJT's unique style and philosophy around the world. San Jose Taiko Conservatory San Jose Taiko's dedication to the development of the taiko art form is evident not only throughperformances but also in its diverse educational programs. The San Jose Taiko Conservatory includes nationally recognized programs like the highly acclaimed tour residencies and theJunior Taiko program, as well as the Adult Recreational ClassPublic and Corporate WorkshopsSchool Outreach Program, Summer Taiko at Stanford, Taiko Weekend Intensives,Summer Internship Program, and Master Classes.  Through the San Jose Taiko Conservatory, SJT is committed to providing professional development opportunities, technical assistance, and a comprehensive array of support and information about North American Taiko to individuals and organizations around the world. As the art form of taiko continues to evolve, the San Jose Taiko Conservatory will be dedicated to fulfilling the needs of the ever-expanding taiko community.

Structure and Philosophy
Describe the ensemble's organizational structure and philosophy, including leadership structure, membership policy, and instructional process.

HISTORY AND TRADITION San Jose Taiko was founded in 1973 by young Asian Americans searching for a creative outlet to convey our unique experiences as third generation Japanese Americans, or Sansei. Looking to Japan for initial inspiration, we selected the Japanese taiko-drum to be the conduit for our creative spirit and empowerment. As a symbol, taiko embodies the spiritual essence and heartbeat of Japan, replete with continued possibilities, renewal and transformation. With its roots in the daily life of the Japanese people, taiko served many purposes. In keeping with tradition, the practice and performance of taiko requires dedication, physical endurance, harmony and a collective spirit. SJT has taken these intrinsic values of the traditional taiko, and infused it with the vitality and freshness of our American spirit to create a dynamic and compelling Asian American art form. SJT uses the power and beauty of taiko to transcend cultures and to foster greater under-standing of Japanese American culture. SJT synthesizes the traditional rhythms of Japanese drumming with the beat of world rhythms including African, Balinese, Latin and jazz percussion. The resulting sounds are contemporary, exciting, new and innovative, bridging many styles, while still resonating the Asian soul in America. SJT credits its longevity to its unique philosophy of group collectivity and input, from its full-time salaried artistic and administrative staff to its board of directors. As one of the early pioneers of taiko in North America, SJT has witnessed the evolution of the group from a grassroots beginning, to a non-profit entity, to the professional organization it is today. In 1995 the company began to establish the San Jose Taiko Conservatory, the first of its kind in the U.S., in order to serve as a national resource for this vibrant Asian American cultural form. Through the Taiko Conservatory, SJT provides professional development opportunities, technical assistance, and a comprehensive array of information support about American Taiko to individuals and organizations around the world. PHILOSOPHY For SJT, the spirit of taiko is an expression of respect and unity, which the group strives to continually develop and communicate. The basic elements that are a part of the "taiko essence" and philosophy are: attitude, kata, musical technique and ki. These elements are interdependent - one building upon the other - and are considered equal in importance. With the proper practice of each, the ultimate expression of taiko can be attained, where the art becomes a part of our personality, a way of being and a life expression. Attitude An attitude of respect for the art of taiko begins with an "open mind and open heart" by approaching taiko with the best of one's mental and physical abilities. Mastering the rudiments of taiko requires self-discipline. It embraces responsibility to oneself and to the group by: persevering to develop one's skill and stamina through the rigorous physical regimen and aerobic conditioning of practice sessions; ridding the mind of ego and self-consciousness to liberate the inner spirit; and summoning the determination to push beyond one's limitations to heighten one's abilities. Kata SJT's basic kata-form consists of a strong, low stance and coordinated arm and body movements. Basic kata is stressed as a means of developing stamina and the optimum use of the body, thereby allowing one to perform movements that are fluid and spontaneous, powerful and dynamic. Each taiko composition has a prescribed set of movements that must be learned along with the rhythms. Each composition is created with uniformity of movement to establish a visual style for the group. As new arrangements are created, new kata is developed to further expand SJT's models of self-expression. Musical Technique Musical technique involves the how of playing, such as: how to hold the bachi-drumsticks, how to use one's wrists, how to strike the drum and how to maintain coordination and concentration in order to produce the best rhythm and tone. By mastering coordination, speed, timing, rhythm, dynamics and accuracy through correct practice, musical technique automatically becomes ingrained in the muscle memory, thus allowing one to have the complete freedom to incorporate kata to produce the complete visual and rhythmic whole. Ki In traditional Eastern philosophical thought, the spiritual unity of the mind and body is called ki. Attaining ki is the ultimate challenge that each member of SJT must meet. Through the disciplined practice of kata and kiai-gutteral shout emitted from the center of the hara-abdomen, one strives to develop the oneness of mind and body that exemplifies ki. Through ki we become one with the taiko, one with other drummers, and one with the universe. When taiko is played from the hara even the listener can sense this oneness which expresses the true spirit of taiko.

List of Founding Members

Founding members: Rev. Hiroshi Abiko Roy Hirabayashi Dean Miyakusu Charter members: Jose Alarcon Reiko Ellen Bepp PJ Hirabayashi Roy Hirabayashi Dorothy Kawaoka Joyce Nishio Gary Tsujimoto Steve Yamaguma

List of Current Members

  San Jose Taiko members are more than performers; they contribute to the longevity of the organization. Each member dedicates 5 to 15 hours each week to rehearse, perform, and teach SJT's many workshops and classes. The awards and recognition given to San Jose Taiko are shared with all performing members, past and present.   

SJT Board Marie Yoshidome, President Dan Sueyoshi, Treasurer Adele Iwasaki Joyce Iwasaki Minh Ngo Jeremy Nishihara Jessica Savage

Membership Composition
(i.e. ethnicity, generation, average years of experience, musical backgrounds, and motivation for playing)

The members of San Jose Taiko range in experience from 38 years to 2 years, of all ethnic backgrounds and occupations. San Jose Taiko supports a core full time artistic and administrative staff of four members. Individuals who are interested in joining SJT are required to begin with our Audition Process (AP). This is a two-year program. The first year is basic training, fundamentals of the SJT kata, musical technique and ki. It also includes a study of the history of taiko in Japan and in the US. The second year is an apprenticeship year with community performances with the performing company.

Description of the group's community - regional, ethnic, social, etc.

San Jose Taiko is based in the historic San Jose Japantown, one of three remaining Japantowns in California. SJT is fortunate to have offices in the Issei Memorial Building, which is an important landmark in the area.

Performances, Recordings, Publications

List a selection of your regular performance venues (for example, Denver Sakura Matsuri, Seabrook obon, business conventions, Manzanar Pilgrimage, Maui Marathon, etc.)

San Jose Taiko showcases their rich repertoire and shares their dynamic style in tours, concerts, festivals, workshops, classes and a variety of other ways.

Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

October 2003 Ichigo Ichie, Nobuko Miyamoto, San Francisco Taiko Dojo & Kinnara Taiko October 2002 Himawari, joint project with Hanayui (Kodo members) and San Jose Taiko September 1998 San Jose Taiko 25th Anniversary Concert, Stanford University, Memorial Auditorium, SJT in collaboration with Shohei Kikuchi of Warabi-Za and Motofumi Yamaguchi of Kodo September 1993 SJT 20th Anniversary program with Keith Terry, Crosspulse, Yoshikazu & Yoko Fujimoto of Kodo, Yasuko Takakubo of Ondekoza, CPA, San Jose June 1991 SJT collaboration, "New Visions: A Collaboration" Concert, Center for the Performing Arts, San Jose with Margaret Wingrove, Kenny Endo, Russel Baba & Jeannie Mercer Sept/Oct 1987 Japan tour with Ondekoza February 1987 Concert with Ondekoza, Flint Center, Cupertino May 1986 Taiko Festival with Kenny Endo & Eitetsu Hayashi, Japan America Theatre, Los Angeles

Non-Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of non-taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

June 2011 Abhinaya Dance Company, Ethnic Dance Festival August 2010 Abhinaya Dance Company, ABDCo 30th Anniversary Concert June 2010 The Bangerz, SubZERO Festival May 2010 Chidori Band, 57th Concert Program February 2010 Chinese Performing Artists of America, Chinese New Year Gala June 2005 Triangle Project with Nobuko Miyamoto, Yoko Fujimoto & PJ Hirabayashi April 2001 San Jose Symphony, SJ State Latin Percussion Ensemble May/June 2000 Sonos Handbell Ensemble collaboration with Pusaka Sunda and composer Jaron Lanier August 1999 Michael Sasaki Band, SJT Summer Series August 1998 Rhythmix and SJT, SJT Summer Series August 1998 PressGang & Jonathan Kirby and SJT, SJT Summer Series February 1998 Jazz & Justice, Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire (B4W), Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco, Anthony Brown, Mark Izu, Francis Wong, Jon Jang, Qi-Chao Liu, Brenda Aoki, George Yoshida May 1997 Traditions in Transformation Collaboration, Japan America Theatre, JACCC, Los Angeles, CA. Anthony Brown, James Newton, Mark Izu, Kei Akagi, Marco Lienhard, Qi-Chao Liu September 1996 Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, CA, collaboration with Qi-Chao Liu, Marco Lienhard & Anthony Brown May 1995 Asian American Jazz Festival, San Francisco, CA, collaboration with Anthony Brown April 1994 Keith Terry, Crosspulse, Redwood House Choir and SJT, Mountain View Performing Arts Center and the Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason, San Francisco April 1993 San Jose Dance Theatre with Zakir Hussain, CPA, San Jose March 1993 SJT with Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, Sachiko Nakamura and Cherylene Lee, Mayer Theatre, Santa Clara University June 1992 San Jose Museum of Art, Ed Holmes and San Jose Taiko performance piece February 1992 "Soul of the Great Bell" collaboration with Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu, Montgomery Theater, San Jose Repertory Company presentation June 1991 SJT collaboration, "New Visions: A Collaboration" Concert, Center for the Performing Arts, San Jose with Margaret Wingrove, Kenny Endo, Russel Baba & Jeannie Mercer Oct/Nov 1990 Oedipus the King with the San Jose Repertory Company, Montgomery Theatre May 1990 Homecoming Concert at the San Jose Buddhist Church with Eth-Noh-Tec and Hitomi Ikuma October 1989 American Conservatory Theatre/George Coates Performance Works, "Right Mind" play, Geary Theatre, San Francisco October 1988 15th Anniversary Concert, Mayer Theatre, Santa Clara University, in collaboration with George Coates Performance Works March 1986 Michiko Akao Spring Concert, Mayer Theatre, Santa Clara University

Audio & Video Recordings
List a selection of publicly accessible audio and/or video recordings featuring the ensemble.

DVD 35th Anniversary Concert , 2008 - Features SJT's 35th Anniversary Concert and includes bonus features of San Jose Obon, interviews with Roy & PJ Hirabayashi, and more.  Running time: 1hr 48min Celebrating 3 Decades , 2005 - The performing company's first DVD This live recording features the best from our 30th Anniversary year as well as bonus material from recent seasons. Video San Jose Taiko, self produced commercial video, 1998   Compact Discs San Jose Taiko, Rhythm Journey , April, 2005 (recorded at CSU Monterey Bay in Sept 2004) Asian American Jazz Orchestra with San Jose Taiko, Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire, Asian Improv Records,1998 Anthony Brown, Family, Asian Improv Records, Live recording at the Asia Society, New York, June 1996 Tatsu Aoki, producer, Sounds Like 1996: Music By Asian American Artists, Never Again by Anthony Brown, IEL, 1996 San Jose Taiko, Mo Ichido, One More Time, March 1996 San Jose Taiko, Kodama , Echoes of the Soul, September 1993 San Jose Taiko, Insight Through Sound Concert, Sokai Audio, March 1991 Jon Jang, Are You Chinese or Charlie Chan? Wazo's March by Mark Izu, RPM Records, 1984   Cassette Tapes San Jose Taiko, Mo Ichido, One More Time, March 1996 San Jose Taiko, Kodama, Echoes of the Soul, September 1993 San Jose Taiko Group, 15th Anniversary Concert, Sokai Audio, 1988 San Jose Taiko Group, Bamboo Brew Productions, 1979

List a selection of articles, master's theses, dissertations, or other publications written about the ensemble.

Taiko, by Cindy Tong, Bridge: An Asian American Perspective, April 1979 Ethnicity of the Sansei: an Ethnographic Study of Cultural Revitalization Movements in a Japanese American Community in San Jose, California, by Kazuhiro Ebuchi, Fukuoka Kyoiku University, March, 1981 Taiko, by Susan Hayase, East Wind, Winter/Spring 1985 Learning Taiko in America, Masters Program in Area Studies, by Chie Otsuka, University of Tsukuba, January 14, 1997 The Power of the Drum: A Multi-Cultural Journey Into Spiritual Transformations and Mind-body Healing Experienced by Eight Professional Women Drummers, dissertation by Joyce Lounsberry, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto, CA, December 2001 Learning Together: Practice, Pleasure and Identity In A Taiko Drumming World, dissertation by Kimberly Powell, School of Education, Stanford University, June 2003 Sounds and Sights of Power: Ensemble Taiko Drumming (kumi daiko) Pedagogy in California and the Conceptualization of Power, dissertation by Mark Tusler, Music Department, June 2003

Musical & Performance Styles
Describe the ensemble's musical and performance styles.

Festivals Taiko is often showcased at matsuri , or festivals, held during special seasons in Asian American communities. In fact, the growth of the art form owes much to the visibility that taiko groups have enjoyed at these celebrations. San Jose Taiko gladly participates in these local events, as well as at multicultural and music/dance festivals, state fairs, and city celebrations throughout the country. Full Concerts and Home Season Concert San Jose Taiko showcases their rich repertoire in a 90-minute concert set with creative staging and lighting design. Concert venues vary in size from small stages to large theaters at schools, colleges, universities, and performing arts centers. A major annual event for San Jose Taiko is our home season concert , an extended series that provides an opportunity to premiere new compositions, try new programming concepts, debut new performing members , and share special time with our dedicated and supportive local audience. Tours and Residencies Touring generally takes San Jose Taiko on the road for three to five weeks during the Spring and again during the Fall. Bookings are contracted through our agent, Holden & Arts Associates , Inc. and are in various regions of the United States as well as abroad. While on tour, the company performs concerts and conducts residencies, which last from three to seven days and include a combination of full concerts, school programs, and master classes . Collaborations To increase artistic strength, share in a variety of creative processes, create a diverse network of fellow performing artists, and reach new audiences, San Jose Taiko frequently participates in collaborations that cut across artistic disciplines. Working with an open mind and open heart, San Jose Taiko strives to expand, extend, and enhance the boundaries of kumidaiko.

Signature Works
Please include title, composer, date of composition, special reason(s) for composition, and what the work represents to the group.

San Jose Taiko composes and arranges our own songs and choreography. The following pieces are a list of the San Jose Taiko songs that have been written by former and current members of SJT. Not all of the songs are actively used in the current repertoire. All of the songs are original compositions unless otherwise indicated as an arrangement. Yorokobi Taiko, by Steve Yamaguma, 1974 Matsuri Taiko (arrangement by San Jose Taiko), 1974 Fuurin Kazan, by Steve Yamaguma, 1975 Currents (formerly Apache Taiko), by Jose Alarcon, 1976, renamed in 2000 Serrada Taiko, by Jose Alarcon, 1978 Gendai ni Ikiru (Living in the Present), by Gary Tsujimoto, 1978 Seven Lands, by Jose Alarcon, 1980 Shi Shi Mai - Lion Dance (arrangement by Gary Tsujimoto), 1981 Typhoon, by Steve Arakaki, 1983 Oedo Bayashi, by Gary Tsujimoto, 1983 Sado Okesa (dance piece arranged by Tomiko Nozaki), 1983 Hachijo Taiko (arrangement by PJ & Roy Hirabayashi), 1983 Matsuri Bayashi (arrangement by PJ & Roy Hirabayashi), 1983 Free Spirit, by Roy Hirabayashi, 1983 Aranami, by Gary Tsujimoto, 1984 Yamawashi no Uta, by Jose Alarcon, 1985 Weaving Drums, by Roy Hirabayashi, 1986 One World, by Gary Tsujimoto, 1986 Hachijo/Noto, by PJ & Roy Hirabayashi, 1987 Miyoshi no Ki, by PJ & Roy Hirabayashi, 1987 Definitely Sansei, by Dannette Sakoda, 1987 Approach the Mountain, by Jose Alarcon, 1988 Songs of the Sky, by Sandy Ikeda, 1988 Kumo no Mai (Dance of the Clouds), by Gary Tsujimoto and Nancy Ozaki, 1988 Bamboo Drums, by PJ & Roy Hirabayashi, 1990 Insight Through Sound, by Roy Hirabayashi, 1990 Tawamure, by Anna Lin, 1991 Konami (Little Wave), by Anna Lin, 1991 Chatter, by Toni Yagami, 1992 Celebration, by PJ & Roy Hirabayashi, 1992 Nana-Shi, by Roy Hirabayashi, 1992 Fuyu no Yume (Dreams of Winter), by Anna Lin, 1992 Kisha (Train), by Janet Koike & Toni Yagami, 1993 Taiko Odori (A medley of dance and drums) 1993 Kagami, by Anna Lin, 1993 Spirit of Adventure, by Roy Hirabayashi, 1993 RumbaKo, by Janet Koike & Toni Yagami, 1993 Yama no Kokoro, the Heart of the Mountain, by Janet Koike, 1994 Prime Time, by Anna Lin, 1994 Ei Ja Nai Ka? ("Isn't it good?), by PJ Hirabayashi, 1994 Hayaku, by Jeremy Nishihara, 1994 4-Play, by Anna Lin, 1994 Song of Ame, by Anna Lin, 1994 Mo Ichido, by Janet Koike, 1994 Safara Weave, by Kevin Mukai and Karen Morita, 1995 Fukai Tokoro Kara (From a Deep Place), by PJ Hirabayashi, 1995 Chikara (Strength), by Janet Koike, 1995 Tawamure II, by Anna Lin, 1995 Matsuri Gensokyoku (Festival Fantasy), PJ Hirabayashi, Yumi Ishihara, Anna Lin & Jeremy Nishihara, 1995 Don's and suku's, Anna Lin, 1995 AikoAja, by Meri Mitsuyoshi, 1996 Haru no Hana, by Heidrun Hoffmann-Rushworth, 1996 Jun Kawa, by Meri Mitsuyoshi, 1996 Moon Clouds of Jupiter, by Anna Lin, 1996 Stompin, by Roy Hirabayashi, 1996 Island Hopping, by Jonathan Kirby, 1996 Okedo Mai, by PJ Hirabayashi, 1997 Tetsu No Umi (Sea of Iron), by Kevin Mukai, 1997 Honen Daiko, arranged by San Jose Taiko, 1997 Kin Moku, by Karen Morita and Roy Hirabayashi, 1997 Shinka, by Eijiro Ikegami and Adam Weiner, 1999 Whatever, by Michelle Fujii, Matt Ogawa, Trish Wong, 1999 Impulse, by Mary Lehner & Lydia Oey, 2000 MisMatch, by Adam Weiner, 2000 Ji, by Mike Fienen, Eijiro Ikegami & Franco Imperial, 2000 Rhythmus, by Adam Weiner, 2001 Pandala, by Franco Imperial, 2001 Do-Kan Ondo, by PJ Hirabayashi, 2001 Iruka, by Franco Imperial, 2001 San Jose Bayashi, by Matt Ogawa, 2002 Decades, by Michael Fienen, 2002 Kansha Journey, by Pamela Sakoi, 2002 Arigato, arrangement by Franco Imperial, 2002 Challenge, arranged by Roy Hirabayashi 2004 4 Minute Drill, by Franco Imperial, 2004 Moving in Time, by Roy & PJ Hirabayashi, 2004 Journeys, by Trish Wong, 2005 Gathering, by Franco Imperial, 2005 DoR, by Franco Imperial, 2007 Whimsy, by Adam Weiner, 2006 Commotion, by Adam Weiner, 2008 Rin-Ne, by Alex Hudson, Franco Imperial, Britt Mattern and Wisa Uemura, 2008   The following are songs written for San Jose Taiko by other composers/choreographers:        

Go, by Keith Terry, 1993 Utsukushiki Daichi no Uta (Song of the Beautiful Earth), choreography by Shohei Kikuchi, music by San Jose Taiko, Kenji Osakake & Motofumi Yamaguchi, 1998 Mahoroba (A Brilliant Place, Country), by Motofumi Yamaguchi, 1998 Ichigo Ichie, by PJ Hirabayashi, Nobuko Miyamoto, Yoko Fujimoto, 2003 Collaborative piece for SJT's 30th anniversary concert Daikokai, by Tetsuro Naito, 2007          


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