Barbara Merjan has performed with various pop and jazz artists in a variety of musical contexts (Lesley Gore, Mark Nadler, Beth Malone, Lea DeLaria, Marian McPartland, Dizzy Gillespie), Japanese taiko (Kaoru Watanabe, Taikoza) and American Contemporary music (Jerome Kitzke, Linda Fisher, Kaoru Watanabe, Amanda Ray). Her extensive Broadway, Off Broadway and touring experience includes the shows Elf, Promises, Addams Family, Cabaret, Mary Poppins, Miss Saigon, Cats, Sunset Blvd., Bed Bugs, the Musical, and Something Rotten! Barbara currently teaches taiko drumming at Wesleyan University.
Eien Hunter-Ishikawa is a musician and educator based in Portland, Oregon specializing in drumset, taiko, percussion, and shinobue. Eien has appeared as guest artist in a variety of concerts including John Kaizan Neptune, Kenny Endo Ensemble, TaikoArts Midwest, and Makoto Taiko. He is a member of contemporary taiko quartet On Ensemble and continues to write new compositions for the group. A very active instructor of percussion, taiko, and shinobue, he has presented workshops at the North American Taiko Conference, World Taiko Gathering, Taiko Baka Gathering, Fue of the Bay, Pacific Northwest Regional Taiko Gathering, and Asano Taiko US. Eien continues to work in a wide variety of artistic collaborations and offers private lessons, online instruction, and workshops.
Eri Ishizuka is a performing member of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble, teaches at the Taiko Center of the Pacific, and is a performing member of Indra, a Japan-based group lead by her older brother, Yuu Ishizuka. Eri’s roots are in hogaku hayashi, Japanese classical drumming as found in Kabuki theater and nagauta music, having studied with her father, Saburo Mochizuki and headmaster, Bokusei Mochizuki, and recently obtaining a natori (stage name) as Takeru Mochizuki. She was a student of O Edo Sukeroku Taiko from 2005-2009 and has studied Edo Bayashi, Shishimai (Lion dance), and bamboo flute from Kyosuke Suzuki (of the Wakayama School) since 2008. In 2010, she was a founder of the Tokyo based taiko group, ‘Kuroccho’. In addition to extensive touring in Japan, Eri has performed in the United States, Spain, Korea, China, and Austria.
Isaku Kageyama is an Instructor and Coach at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute (LATI). Isaku also works with groups such as Asano Taiko’s UnitOne, film-scoring extravaganza The Masterpiece Experience, world music group Rhythm of the Universe, anime band Soulandscape, and the LA Japanese Music Ensemble. Formerly a principal drummer of premiere ensemble Amanojaku, he holds a Bachelor of Music from the Berklee College of Music and a Master of Arts from Longy School of Music of Bard College. Isaku has served as taiko instructor at Wellesley University and the University of Connecticut, and is a two-time National Odaiko (large drum) Champion, becoming the youngest person to win highest honors at the Mt. Fuji Odaiko Contest in 2000, and Hokkaido in 2003.
Joe Small is a professional taiko drum artist and Assistant Professor of Dance with Specialization in Taiko at Swarthmore College. Joe’s passion for taiko as a college student brought him to learn under Kenny & Chizuko Endo at the Taiko Center of the Pacific and intern for San Jose Taiko and Portland Taiko. These experiences led him to Japan for over six years of intense study, including a Fulbright Fellowship; a two-year apprenticeship with KODO; and ongoing performance activities as the sole non-Japanese disciple of Eitetsu Hayashi and member of his professional ensemble, Fu-un no Kai since 2012. While based in Los Angeles from 2014-17, Joe taught at Los Angeles Taiko Institute, guest-choreographed at Santa Monica College, co-founded Small Mountain Studios with Isaku Kageyama and performed taiko in several mixed-disciplinary works, including contemporary dance, puppetry, opera, and heavy metal. Joe has also been a member of the LA-based Prota, and a touring member of Marco Lienhard’s Taikoza. In 2015, Joe debuted his first original evening-length work, “Spall Fragments”, touring Los Angeles and San Francisco the following year. Joe has been active with the Australian professional taiko ensemble Taikoz as a guest in 2015, and then as a regular performer for their 2017-18 season. As a solo artist, Joe has performed and taught throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Spain, Switzerland, and Japan. Joe holds a BA in Dance from Swarthmore College and an MFA in Dance from UCLA, where his work focused upon mixing taiko with contemporary performance art.
In her decades-long work as a community builder, performer, and social practice artist Karen Young inspires real connection. Her personal story of disenfranchisement compelled her to find her own voice and use it to help others find theirs. Her passion for taiko drumming was ignited the first time she heard it thirty years ago. Turning aspiration into realization, Young’s approach to taiko inspires marginalized populations to reclaim voice, culture, power, and a sense of belonging. Karen is the Founding Director of The Genki Spark and has been instrumental in launching http://www.womenandtaiko.org, an initiative to increase the visibility of women in the art form and Taiko and Community a community building initiative supported by the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA.) Karen leads taiko workshops and discussions throughout North America and Europe at the North American Taiko Conference, European Taiko Conference, Regional Taiko Conference, East Coast Taiko Conference, UK Taiko Festival, has featured interviews and videos with TaikoSource, Talkin’ Taiko with Tyrone, and TCA Taikothon, is a TCA charter member, and has been part of the North American Taiko Community since 1997.
Kenny Endo is a solo performer, composer, and teacher, founder of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble and co-founder and Artistic Director of the Taiko Center of the Pacific. He blends Japanese taiko with original melodies and rhythms influenced by his background in world music. Kenny began his taiko career in 1975 in California with Kinnara Taiko and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo and has collaborated with artists from around the world. While living in Japan, he was a member of Osuwa Daiko and O Edo Sukeroku Taiko and performed with Eitetsu Hayashi. In Tokyo, he studied hogaku hayashi, Japanese classical drumming, with Saburo Mochizuki and Bokusei Mochizuki and Edo Bayashi, Tokyo festival music, with Kenjiro Maru of the Wakayama Shachu. Kenny has received numerous awards and accolades, including a natori, a stage name, in Japanese classical drumming. He was a featured artist on the PBS special Spirit of Taiko, performed for the late Michael Jackson and Prince, opened for The Who, performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin, and is featured on the soundtracks for Kayo Hatta’s Picture Bride, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and worked on James Cameron’s Avatar. Kenny was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for American Masterpieces and has received commissions from the NEA, Japan Foundation, American Composers Forum, Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and the Honolulu Mayor’s Office on Culture and the Arts.
Hailing from Tokyo, Masataka Kobayashi founded the Mirai Taiko Dojo in 1996 and continued to form his professional Taiko group, Bonten in 2000. Taking inspirations from various musical styles Bonten is renowned for its contemporary approach to traditional taiko playing, mixing pop, reggae, classic, aboriginal, dance, and performance. With the motif of “Taiko that anybody can exert their full strength”, Kobayashi continues to inspire his over 450 students, including Yamatai, Cornell University’s taiko student group. Visit his webpage for more information.
Kris Bergstrom is a solo artist and Head Teacher at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute (LATI) in Torrance, California. Kris started playing taiko while an undergraduate at Stanford University. After graduation he studied taiko and shamisen in Japan, and was a founding and touring member of On Ensemble until 2015. Kris holds a natori (stage name), Kineya Katsukoujyu, in shamisen from Kineya Katsuyukie. Kris’ thoughtful approach to taiko instruction and composition, coupled with a strong philosophy of sharing and collaboration, has led to a number of widely distributed exercises, compositions, and activities, among them the “1-2-3-4 Drill”, Jack Bazaar, and Matsuri Crashers.
Mark H Rooney
Mark H Rooney – the world’s most dangerous half-Japanese/half-Scottish solo improvisational taiko artist – combines this traditional foundation with a modern sensibility to create performances and classes that emphasize connection, reaction, and interaction. Mark began his taiko career in Boston, MA as a performing member of Odaiko New England in 1998. He has since performed with a number of groups in Japan as well as performing widely in Europe and the United States as a touring member of Taikoza. Mark has also collaborated with other artists and groups including Tiger Okoshi, Opera unMet, UpRooted Dance, Arts on the Horizon, and ilyAIMY. Mark is a dynamic and talented performer, but his true passion lies with teaching taiko. In addition to serving as Odaiko New England’s Artistic Director from 2008 – 2010, Mark was the principal architect and instructor for their widely successful classes and workshops. He has also taught in after-school programs and colleges (including as the founding instructor for Wesleyan University’s popular taiko program), as well as the Mark H Rooney Taiko School for his growing number of students in the DC area. Since moving to DC in 2011, Mark continues to teach ongoing weekly classes, offer special workshops several times each year, and perform for a wide variety of audiences ranging from school children to diplomats.
Stuart Paton, Founder and Artistic Director of Burlington Taiko, began his formal study of taiko in 1984 during a summer apprenticeship with Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka, the founder of the first taiko group in North America (San Francisco Taiko Dojo). Paton Sensei later founded the Burlington Taiko Group in 1986 not long after settling in Vermont. Paton Sensei has established an artistic style for Burlington Taiko that combines movement, rhythm, voice, and the efficient and graceful movement of chi, or “energy,” from the player to the drum. His affection for the group dynamic of taiko is evident both when he performs at the most advanced level, and when he instructs the most novice players.
Tiffany Tamaribuchi is the co-founder and director of Sacramento Taiko Dan and Jodaiko, a professional women’s taiko ensemble. A student and supporter of Tanaka-sensei, Tiffany’s taiko experience forms a bridge between taiko in Japan and North America. Over the years she has played and toured with a number of notable groups from Japan, including Za Ondekoza, Zampa Ufujishi Taiko, Eisadantai Mafuekaji, and Shidara. Tiffany was the winner of the 2002 All Japan Odaiko competition and finalist at the first Tokyo International Odaiko Contest. Her work has garnered her support by Asano Taiko, and made her popular as a workshop facilitator not only at taiko conferences in North America and abroad but also as a private instructor and mentor for individuals and taiko groups. Tiffany developed and produces TaikoBaka training intensives on different topics in Sacramento and other venues. Always working to deepen understanding about taiko in Japan for North American audiences, Tiffany recently debuted the first Ondeko group outside Japan after training with Kasuga Onigumi on Sado Island and receiving their permission to share their indigenous art form with others.
Yeeman Mui (ManMan)
Yeeman Mui (ManMan) is an experienced performing artist and acclaimed teacher. She is the founder and director of Taiko Together, a parent-child taiko drumming program for age 2-6. ManMan now teaches at Los Angeles Taiko Institute, performs as a solo artist, and gives workshops to groups around the globe. She has also founded the professional development program for teachers titled Taiko FUNdamentals. As a Taiko Center of the Pacific Fellow in 2012-2014 and performing member from 2013-2017, she received extensive training with taiko master Kenny Endo and his ensemble. She has an MPhil in Musicology from the University of Hong Kong and is a certified Orff Schulwerk instructor (San Francisco International Orff Level I-III).
Young Park is a performing member and General Manager of Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers (RAW), a community arts collective of East and Southeast Asian Women in Toronto. Young, a native of South Korea and Boston, studied at the New England Conservatory Prep School and Walnut Hill School of Performing Arts as a youth, received her Bachelor’s in Music from Oberlin College, and a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She co-founded SAFMOD, a multi-disciplinary performing arts group that integrates music and dance styles from different cultures. During her tenure as Artistic Director at SAFMOD her work was influenced by movement styles such as Butoh, Contact Improv, capoeira and stilting. In 2012 she was the project director of the Toronto Taiko Festival. Young’s currently works with the collective membership of RAW to carve space for self-expression, authentic engagement, community, and healing.
After seven years studying with San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Kato was a leader of UCLA Kyodo Taiko before moving to Japan to study at Nihon Taiko Dojo and on Hachijo island. He performed professionally with On Ensemble, TAIKOPROJECT, Portland Taiko, and coordinated the 2011 North American Taiko Conference before turning his attention to taiko teaching. Kato is Principal at LATI, where he is dedicated to student success and community building.