St. Louis Osuwa Taiko

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko

Saint Louis, Missouri, United States

Founded 1986 and again in 1996

Basic Information

    (soon to be) non-profit

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

Our mission is to educate the community about taiko and Japanese culture through taiko performances and the occasional workshop.

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

The ensemble is run by two directors, a practice director (what is probably called the "artistic director" in other groups) and an organizational director. The directors delegate authority to members for specific purposes, such as equipment repairs and costume control.

The directors run the show, but are expected to get consensus most of the time from the members. No major decisions are invoked without consultation of the whole group.

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

Our group was founded in 1986 when Daihachi Oguchi, the grand master from Osuwa Taiko, visited St. Louis, the sister city of Suwa in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. He brought a set of drums as a gift to the city and taught a kids' group to play.

The kids played until 1992, when they all went off to college. One of the kids, Joe Kimura, who had continued playing while he was at Stanford, came back to St. Louis for medical school. He re-founded the group at Washington University.

Since then, we have evolved from purely a student group to a community group, taking members from Washington and other universities, but also from the community at large. We are currently in the final stages of becoming a non-profit organization under IRS code 501(c)(3).

List of Founding Members

Oguchi Daihachi
Joe Kimura

List of Current Members

Aparna Kesarwala, Aya Yoshida, Ellen Clifford, Helena Wotrig, Jaclynn Lett, Jocelyn Tsai, Junsei Ito, Kiyomi Yamada, Melanie Veale, Michael Bowdern, Rieko Terai, and occasionally Robin Yang and Carol Lin

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

Our members have varying years of experience. Several have no previous musical experience and some have been playing music their entire lives. The longest-lived members have been in the group for as long as they've been playing taiko, seven years. We take new members every year in the winter, most of whom have never played taiko before.

Biggest Changes
Describe two of the biggest changes that have characterized the group's development since its founding

The biggest changes were the change from a kids' group, which of course was followed by four years of inactivity. The reformation of the group as a student group was the biggest change we've gone through!

The second biggest change was when Joe Kimura, who refounded the group, left St. Louis to do his residency in San Diego. That really stirred up questions about who was doing what and how the group should be run; before, Joe had done it all!

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.)

Missouri Botanical Gardens' Japanese Festival
Circus Harmony
annual concert (this year called Minori)
Hands Across the Pacific
Missouri Scholars' Academy
Fair St. Louis
Washington University's Asian Night Market
Father Tim Touhey's Charity Luau
plenty of elementary schools
several Washington University events

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

We have been very grateful to receive instruction as a group from

PJ & Roy Hayashibara
Shoji Kameda

Individual members have worked with other teachers and groups, such as Oguchi Daihachi, Tiffany Tamaribuchi, Taikoproject, etc.

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

St. Louis Arches Youth Circus Troupe
American Chamber Chorale
Meramec Symphonic Band

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

Circus Harmony: First Movement

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

We are very much a modern group, although we do play some classics lent to us by Oguchi Daihachi of Osuwa Taiko. We play both beta and slant style, and recently have started migrating towards the large movements of Shoji Kameda's style.

Our songs tend to be in 4/4 or 8/8 time, though we are working to change that. We have one regular fue player and have incorporated rain sticks and dijeridoos in our performances before.

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

Drive - 2002 - Michele Tang. Written to describe the driving force that encourages us to succeed
Kaifuu - 2001 - Andrew Thalheimer. A song representing the forms of ocean wind.
Tsurugi no Mai - 2004 - Robin Yang. Written to emulate kung fu and draw comparisons between that art and taiko
Kokoro no Koe - 2003 - Jaclynn Lett. A soft and introspective piece played on the fue.
Tenchi - 1998 - Joe Kimura. Based on the driving rhythm of San Jose's Free Spirit, this is our signature piece; to us it represents all that's fun about taiko!
Rhythm Sandwich - unfinished - Andrew Thalheimer. I'm working on it!
Zenkai - 2005 - Andrew Thalheimer. This piece was written to incorporate rhythms and movements from different cultures into taiko.
Tobihi - ? - Joe Kimura and Hiroshi Tanaka. Written as an excuse to do big oodaiko solos.




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