O-Tatsu Taiko

O-Tatsu Taiko

Stamford, Connecticut, United States

Founded September 1, 2001

Basic Information

    Non-profit fiscal agent

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

O-Tatsu Taiko aims to provide a framework with like-minded people to share the values and joy of taiko drumming and asian culture. The group comes first before any one individual. We always try to have fun and ensure newcomers feel welcome! We share our love for taiko with the community so that taiko becomes just as familiar on the East Coast as it is on the West Coast of the US.

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

O-Tatsu Taiko is a community based taiko group which maintains non-profit 501(c)3 status via a fiscal agent, (SCDC) Stamford Cultural Development Corporation. The group operates by consensus. The leading factor for membership is dedication and commitment to the group and its values. O-Tatsu Taiko collects membership fees (i.e. quarterly, annual)to help pay for space rental and equipment maintenance. However, exemptions are made based upon financial need and overall commitment level to the group. All major decisions are taken by general consensus vote. This includes which performances to accept, workshops to host and equipment/costumes to purchase.
The group is led by its members and all are expected to take a leadership role to help others learn. Thus, no one person stays a beginner for long and people who have played for a long time still learn from others. Those who attend workshops led by professional players do so with the understanding that they have an obligation to share what they learn with other members of the group.

Group History
Describe how, where, and why the ensemble was founded. What was its inspiration?

The group was founded by Sandra Shen in the Fall of 2001. Starting as a group of hardly 4 members, with a total of 2 taiko drums, the group first used Sandra's living room to hold practice sessions. O-Tatsu Taiko now has more than 19 active participants. The group gives over 10 performances, organizes and produces at least 4 special events, host at least 12 workshops led by professional taiko playerseach year. O-Tatsu Taiko is fortunate to now maintain two practice spaces, one in Greenwich, CT and another in Pelham, NY.

In 1989, Sandra saw KODO perform with Soh Daiko in NYC in front of the World Trade Center. She was fresh out of college, starting a career and thinking about going to grad school. She knew she wanted to play the minute she heard the resounding sound of the taiko and saved that vision in the back of her head for a later time.

Nine years later, after having left NYC, traveling the world and settling back in the NY area, Sandra had a chance to attend a weekend-long workshop for potential recruitment to Soh Daiko. She had the time of her life, blisters, bloody hands and all! Sandra wasn't one of the chosen ones, but nonetheless her journey with Taiko had only begun on a dusty road. For a couple of years after that experience, she kicked around a few pebbles and took workshops where they could be found and attended practices and played with groups where she was welcome. Sandra also built her first taiko.

In 2001, Sandra tired of traveling here and there and decided to set up her own taiko group in CT. She thought,.. 'I will bring taiko to Stamford, CT'. And she did. Three years later, O-Tatsu Taiko produced Stamford's 1st weekend long Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) at Mill River Park featuring Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble from Hawaii and Wadaiko Ensemble TOKARA from Nagano, Japan. The community in Fairfield County, CT no longer confuses "Taiko" with "Tae Bo" and Sandra has started a path for many to lead others and enjoy what she enjoys so very much.

List of Current Members

Sandra Shen, Isabelle Walkowiak, Maiko Yoshida, Richard Fu, Patricia Betts, Ayumi Oikawa, Sue Bernstein, Alasdair Denvil, Cassy Huebenthal, Scott Shen, Malika Duckworth, Jenny Tan, Mika Kishimoto, Joan Miyazaki, Carlissa Louther, Lynne Patnode, Cien Kim

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.)

Yale University Mochitsuki Festival, Stamford Sakura Matsuri, Pelham Haru Matsuri

Instructors, Teachers & Mentors
List the instructors, teachers and mentors who have worked with the ensemble.

Marco Lienhard, San Jose Taiko, Kenny Endo, Art Lee, KODO, Amanojaku Taiko, Toni Yagami, Noelle Yuen, John Ko

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

Marco Lienhard, Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble, Art Lee and TOKARA.

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

Japan Folk Dance Institute of NY, Waking Dream Puppets, Japan Society of Fairfield County CT, Greenwich Japanese School, Japan Consulate of NY.


Sandra Shen
96 Crestview Avenue


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A project of the Japanese American National Museum

Major support by The Nippon Foundation