A grant from the Ohio Arts Council brought Susan Byrnes from WYSO to this little school, located in the middle of the cornfields, to create art with the students. It turns out that thirteen years ago a musician came here to teach Taiko to the students. After all this time, the percussion program is still going strong, thanks to the dedication of music teacher, Audrey Hathaway. One of the students is also a Taiko drummer, so Susan asked him to tell the story.
My name is Lilly Severance and I am a student at Mississinawa Valley High School. I am involved in several things here in Mississinawa. However, I have to say that Taiko is the most unique.
Taiko is a very expressive form of Japanese percussion. It only uses a few different sounds, but it creates a variety of music.
We are given very big sticks and we call them our “bachi”. You can choose between an okedo, a nagada or a shime drum to drum with our bachi. When we hit a drum head we call it a “donation” and when we hit a drum edge it is called a “ka”.
This year our teacher Ms. Hathaway worked with students from my Taiko group to create an original drum composition that they will perform for the holidays. It is called “Circular” and refers to the enso, or symbol of the circle in Zen Buddhism and Japanese calligraphy.
“We start with a theme,” says Ms. Hathaway, a music teacher at Mississinawa Valley. “If we don’t have a theme, it doesn’t go very well because we don’t know what we’re working towards, and most of Taiko’s pieces will have a nature theme, or things like that, that” so is usually where we start. And then the ‘Ji’ that’s that da dat da dat da dat is the underlying rhythm, and then they create rhythms to go with it. ‘ So right now that’s kind of what we’re working on. “
One of the composers who read the statement wrote about the meaning of the song.
“My name is Judah Ben Winchester. Circle, enso, the culmination of all that is true in the universe. The symbol of strength and enlightenment, perfect meditative inner peace. It symbolizes the emptiness of nothingness and the beauty of the universe. And such is life, the emptiness of nothingness, the beauty of life, and in the end, perfect harmony. Like everything, the circle is complete. Enso.
To come full circle with this story, Ms. Hathaway and I spoke to Eric Paton, the musician who first brought Taiko to our school.
I asked him, “What two things do you remember from your time in Mississinawa?” “
“Come on, I remember we were doing drums, and it’s rare that we do drums in residence,” said Eric Paton. learn the drums because they helped make the drums. It was 2008 when we had the Ohio Arts Council residency and during that residency we went after pizza and did a show at the Greenville Nursing Home, and the students performed, and I thought the intergenerational connection and sharing of culture was wonderful. “
To someone on the outside, Taiko is just a drum. For Taiko drummers, it means so much more. Taiko is a big part of our circle. Each Taiko player started with “don” and “ka”. We’ve all watched famous Taiko players and wanted to be like them. We all had the nervousness to play for the first time, and we all messed up a beat or two. We were all proud to learn difficult rhythms, and we all have fond memories with Taiko. Taiko artists have created their own circle. Although Taiko may play different roles in each of our lives, we all share the same love for art. I think it’s something to celebrate.
It’s Lilly Severance for WYSO.
Lilly Severance got help from Culture Couch producer Susan Byrnes. You can see Taiko students perform “Circular” at Winterfest on King’s Island in Cincinnati on December 4th and at Mississinawa Valley School on December 13th.
Support for Culture Couch comes from WYSO executives Frank Scenna and Heather Bailey, who pride themselves on supporting storytelling that sparks curiosity, highlights creativity and builds community.
Culture Couch is created at Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.