Becoming a Taiko Drummer

So I did it. I took a taiko class and now I’m taking a whole bunch of them.

The class is at Dance Exchange in Takoma Park with teacher Mark H. Rooney. He is an amazing teacher – funny, deeply knowledgeable, passionate about taiko, friendly and just very nice to be around. And my fellow students were also wonderful. Most were complete beginners like me.

It is just as physically and emotional satisfying as I hoped it would be. Having never played a musical instrument other than a recorder, I can’t tell you how good it feels when that drum sound resonates in your whole body, but especially your gut or your “hara.” When you are playing the taiko drum, you bend your knees and face your stomach toward the drum, and this creates an energy exchange.

Learning taiko for the first time

Learning taiko for the first time – Photo by Heather Mitchell-Buck

Sustainable Satisfaction

I don’t know if I will ever be “good” at taiko, but it is not about that for me. That is because this group drumming – or “kumi-daiko” – is about everyone drumming together. More skilled drummers will likely hit the drum harder, or injure their hands less, or have more brain power left over to shout encouraging “kiai” or shouts of energy. But it is deeply satisfying just to hit that drum at the exact same time and create this resonance.

Finding that place of sustainable satisfaction, that is what motivates me. I was buying new running shoes this weekend, and I asked the salesperson about their Running 101 and 201 classes. He described how the goal is to help you speed up. And I realized, it is not about speeding up for me. It is about running regularly and without injury. I want to see new trails, but I don’t want to win races. This is how I feel about taiko and perhaps many other things these days.

Taiko Dreams

I currently have four taiko dreams, other than just learning from Mark H.

Dream #1: Learn how to build practice drums – You might remember the first blog I wrote about building taiko drums. In that Maker Camp webinar, the speaker talked about how he makes practice drums with his students in New York. Mark H. made practice drums from garbage cans. I want to learn how to make them from painter’s buckets so I can fit more of them in my tiny car so that I can achieve dream #2.

Practice taiko drum made from garbage can

Practice taiko drum made from garbage can

Dream #2: Learn enough taiko so I can facilitate a taiko drumming circle close to my home – While I have enjoyed learning more about Dance Exchange and Takoma Park, it is really far away. I want to create a circle in Reston. I want it to be open to adults and children. I want to perform at schools, Scout troops and parades in my home town.

Dream #3: Teach taiko at the Family Nature Summit – It is perhaps naive to think I can travel to California next summer and teach taiko in the state that is so full of amazing taiko teachers. But I think it would be really fun.

Dream #4: Own a nice taiko drum some day – A drum made from a PVC pipe with a cow’s hide head or top would be hundreds of dollars. An actual drum costs thousands of dollars. So owning one is perhaps unlikely. In a way, owning one nice drum is not the point. The point is to have a group of people drumming. So this dream is not perhaps fully formed in my mind. I think I might need more than two lessons to form that dream more clearly. 🙂

In the meantime, let’s see where this path takes me. I’m just so grateful I have the opportunity to pursue this at all.

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