This year I have been an apprentice with the Taiko performance group Nen Daiko. My final evaluation, when I might finish my apprenticeship and become a “Nennie,” is in two weeks.
Each member of Nen Daiko has given me many gifts of wisdom, patience, humor, technique and joy this year. I am still amazed each time we practice how their diverse approaches and personalities enrich my life!
I made gifts for two members who have helped me a lot, Brig and Hanae. Next year, Brig is moving to New Orleans to get his doctorate at Tullane. Hanae is taking the year off to help her daughter with her sports dreams. It is challenging to imagine practicing and performing without them.
Last week, Hanae showed me a gift she had for Brig – some exquisite bachi or drumsticks that we use with Taiko drums. Hanae and Brig were apprentices together and have helped each other for years. I offered to sew a bag from Japanese fabrics to become part of the gift. I did not know when I offered that we would need the bag in only a week, but Hanae emailed to say this was the last practice where both of them would be in attendance, so I quickly made the bag. My plan was to make Hanae a bag too, to show my appreciation for her coaching.
The main lesson I learned from Brig this year was to smile when I’m playing Taiko onstage. Once we were doing a show and he was throwing his bachi into the air during his solo. I said, “Brig – is that the best idea? This is a very important show. What if you drop the bachi?” He answered, “Then I will drop the other bachi as well. And I will smile.” And that’s when I knew, he was not kidding about the power of that smile.
Hanae taught me to smile but not by telling me to smile. She taught me to smile because she has the biggest smile you ever saw. Like Brig, her face glows when she is on-stage. The passion she brings to her playing is well-known and measured by broken bachi. No one breaks more bachi than Hanae. That is the power she brings when she hits the drum.
It will be important to me as I mature as a player to bring their smiles and their power. I have a very long way to go before I ever throw or break a bachi in a performance, and make it look like it was all part of the show – it’s hard to imagine right now. But if I ever do it, I will be thinking about Brig and Hanae.
There are many craftspeople who make beautiful bachi bags. Taiko Mom‘s children played Taiko and she started making bags as a business. Most have straps so you can wear them like a backpack, or pockets so you can bring many sets to a performance. It was not my intention to make a super-complex bachi bag. These are meant to be simple gift bags, a celebration of the craftsmanship in the bachi that Hanae purchased because the bachi were so special. They are a very long rectangle folded and a flap with velcro and trim at one end.
The Japanese fabric are scraps from Kim Hirose, who used to work with me at National Wildlife Federation many years ago. She gave me four large Ziplock bags of scraps from a quilt she made, knowing I would enjoy working with the scraps. I just didn’t think it would take me almost 10 years to use them! The orange and green strips are from Emerson Gaziano who also worked with me at NWF and made me a birthday banner in my cubicle. So these scraps are enjoying a happy new life!