Meet Joy – My Tsukasa Taiko: Member Testimonials Series 017

Meet Joy, one of our Cool Ladies/ Arashi members.

  1. Why did you choose Tsukasa Taiko?

I am with Tsukasa Taiko because this group offers repertoire that is both culturally authentic and artistically ambitious.

  1. Please share your most memorable Tsukasa moment.

For me, the most memorable moment was the realization that my experience with Tsukasa Taiko would be an ongoing journey of personal and artistic development.

  1. What do you look forward to doing with Tsukasa in the future?

I look forward to carrying on with Tsukasa Taiko, to becoming more and more proficient in performing the material that has been given to me, to being swept away by it, and to being an inspiration for the group and the music to grow and develop.

Thank you Genryu!

Summer is one of the busiest times for Tsukasa Taiko and the first week in August is one of our busiest. Last year, one of our National Gintenkai members Wesley from Genryu Arts flew in to help us. This year 7 players from Genryu flew in for a week to play with Tsukasa’s chibikko, Cool Ladies and Gintenkai Unit throughout the city. We had a total of 9 shows in 5 days: an educational program at Montessori Language Academy; Night Out in the Parks series at HAAS Park and Ping Tom Park; Family Fun at Millennium Park; and two days at the Morton Arboretum’s Destination Asia Festival.  We also squeezed in a few rehearsals in preparation for our annual Taiko Legacy and Reduction shows in December.

It was a packed schedule but a wonderful experience because it was one of the few times that our National Gintenkai Project can come and perform together. It was also important to have the younger GRA members come and play with Gintenkai as well as Tsukasa’s other members; to introduce them to the strength of our national relationship between Genryu in San Francisco and Tsukasa in Chicago.

Thank you so much to the performers and parents for flying out!

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Meet Jennifer – My Tsukasa Taiko: Member Testimonials Series 016

Meet Jennifer, one of our longtime Cool Ladies/ Kazan members.

What Tsukasa Taiko Means to Me

I saw a taiko exhibition about 13 years ago during the Humanities Festival and thought, “Oh, I want to do that!” and then began a 3-year-long search for some place that would take a newbie, wanna-be drummer at age 50+. I found a home at Tsukasa Taiko.

Tsukasa Taiko provides a unique blend of community drumming underlain with a serious push for musicality. Rooted in a foundation of Japanese cultural arts, all the Tsukasa Taiko drummers learn to hear the music, the reverberations and, surprisingly, the silences of each piece. It’s this push for artistry that has kept me at Tsukasa for over 10 years.

There’s also the community from ages 6 to 60. Tied together through mutual effort, Tsukasa Taiko has become a close family united by the camaraderie of hard work. The little ones keep growing into their awesome abilities; the teen agers are so cute in their studied awkwardness; the shy ones take some drawing out−but everyone is united in their efforts to learn the songs, to play together, to get better.

Mostly this is due to Tatsu Aoki and his drive for the music. While holding out a standard for us to achieve, he keeps the learning fun, accessible and has recruited superb teachers who can help you define what you are doing wrong, how to get better, and what the correct form really is. In addition, there’s the influence of those around you who can play the shamisen, shimei or shinobue or dance in the classical Japanese style.

But finally, it’s about the drumming. To perform well, surrounded by all that sound, moving through it, is an experience not readily duplicated.

Meet Catalina – My Tsukasa Taiko: Member Testimonials Series 015

Meet Catalina, member of the Cool Ladies / Arashi group!

  1. Why did you choose Tsukasa Taiko?

I chose Tsukasa Taiko because it seemed to be the school that shared the most authentically musical and Japanese style of the Taiko drumming tradition, and also we would be playing on real drums right away! It was seemed important to me to have the context of the Japanese American Service Center as a home base, and relating Taiko to other arts such as dance. Finally, the leadership of Tatsu Aoki was very important as he grew up in the true Tokyo scene of traditional Japanese arts and Taiko and is also a renowned member of Chicago’s musical community. I feel very lucky to take classes from such an artist!

  1. Please share your most memorable Tsukasa moment.

When we play taiko at various marathons in Chicago, and the runners go by cheering and raising their arms in the air, happily getting energy from our drumming! It makes me think that this is what our world should be – each of us supporting the other in our journeys of art, creativity and self-expression.

  1. What do you look forward to doing with Tsukasa in the future?

I am enjoying our community performances at marathons and festivals and hope to share this beautiful art with more and more Chicagoans.

Meet Mia – My Tsukasa Taiko: Member Testimonials Series 014

Meet the mother of Mia, one of our Chibikko members.

  1. Why did you choose Tsukasa Taiko?


  1. Please share your most memorable Tsukasa moment.

ミレニアムパークでのパフォーマンスに初めてミアが出たときのこと。Holiday Delightのような日系の人がメインのフェスティバルではなく、人種や背景にある文化などさまざまな、言ってしまえばたまたま通りかかった人たちが足を止めてパフォーマンスに見入っていた様子を見て感動しました。まだまだ未熟ながらがんばって演奏していたちびっこたちもすばらしかったです。その時だったと思うんですけど、出演料に10ドルいただいたのにびっくりし、同時にありがたいと思ったのを覚えています。

  1. What do you look forward to doing with Tsukasa in the future?



Meet Yukina – My Tsukasa Taiko: Member Testimonials Series 013

Meet Yukina, one of our newer Chibikko members, and her mother.

  1. Why did you choose Tsukasa Taiko?


  1. Please share your most memorable Tsukasa moment.



  1. What do you look forward to doing with Tsukasa in the future?



Visit to Global Pungmul Institute

Today Tsukasa’s Gintenkai members went to visit Global Pungmul Institute to do a short cultural presentation. The visit was part of our cultural exchange that was initiated last year when SoriBeat came to our dojo to present Samulnori. it presents a wonderful opportunity to share and preserve our respective drumming cultures. Thank you so much for having us. We are looking forward to more future collaborations!

Tsukasa will also join GPI’s Project Ul-ssi-gu again this year which will be held on Sunday, August 14 at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park.


Meet Kiyomi – My Tsukasa Taiko: Member Testimonials Series 012

Meet Kiyomi, our Gintenkai Leader!

  1. Why did you choose Tsukasa Taiko?

I joined Tsukasa 12 years ago with my two younger brothers as a cultural extracurricular activity that all three of us could partake in. In 2002 I had graduated from my Futabakai Japanese Saturday School and was looking for a whole new “Japanese” experience to pursue. After watching the founder of Tsukasa Taiko perform at my high school cultural showcase, I was convinced that taiko was it. I’m so glad to be a part of the group today because since then I’ve been able to share multiple stages with truly incredible artists and accomplish goals that no other taiko groups have ever achieved. It’s exciting to know that Tsukasa is the artistic taiko pioneer in the Midwest.  

  1. Please share your most memorable Tsukasa moment.

I have countless memorable Tsukasa moments but Taiko Legacy 10 is one of my absolute favorites. It marked a milestone for us as we presented our 10th anniversary show of the Taiko Legacy concert series at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, our executive director had put together Reduction, a unique, poetic, art-focused presentation that explored the idea of collaborative storytelling. I enjoyed rehearsing and performing for both shows that were different as night and day. I love that Tsukasa is able to present an entertaining, exciting, percussion and choreography-based traditional drumming show as well as a creative, theatrical, performance art show that seamlessly fuses multiple artist works. I really don’t think I can experience that anywhere else.

  1. What do you look forward to doing with Tsukasa in the future?

I’d like to collaborate with new events and artists and would also like to host a Tsukasa taiko intensive camp! Last year’s Reduction showcase opened my eyes to new possibilities, and I would love for Tsukasa to perform at gallery exhibition openings, work with filmmakers and photographers, inspire designers and visual artists, and dive even further into the greater Chicago or Midwest art scene. We often explore musical journeys crossing into the genres of jazz, blues, Japanese traditions (naturally…) but I’d love to seek opportunities where we can combine audio, visual, and performance art. Another dream for me is to have a taiko intensive “camp” featuring our youth and senior students where we can perfect routines, experiment with improvisations, challenge ourselves, and build team spirit. Most of us already know each other and bond during community performances but I’ve love to take it to another level where students are able to come up with their own productions under instructor guidance and ongoing mentoring sessions.


Glen Grove/ Westgrove Elementary Educational Presentations

Part of Tsukasa Taiko/ AIRMW’s program involves educational presentations about our traditional Japanese arts and legacy. We often do out presentations in Japanese for schools that have a Japanese language component. Today, we visited The Glen Grove and Westgrove Elementary schools in Glenview for a cultural program hosted by the district’s PTA group. It was quite a busy day as we had a total of 4 sessions between the two schools. The kids were wonderful and  we thank you all for having us!

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