On Thursday, February 9, 23 students from North and South attended a taiko (traditional Japanese drum) workshop in North's auditorium. The workshop was made possible with an Innovative Learning Grant from North's PTA, but also because Japanese teacher Ms. Uchiyama had the idea of inviting taiko performer Mark Rooney to teach the members of the Japanese club how to play the special instrument.
Rooney led students through drills and routines he uses when teaching his students back in D.C. The workshop began with stretching, to prevent any muscles from being pulled, followed by the teaching of five basic rhythms. It was critical for students to learn the five rhythms before progressing to more complex material, as the majority of songs played on the taiko contain at least one of the five basic rhythms, in one form or another.
Students rotated positions every few minutes, in order to have the opportunity to play on different drums throughout the workshop. Rooney brought some top-notch taikos that he made himself, but most of the drums at the workshop were actually hand-made by North's students themselves, using duct and packaging tape, and a 32 gallon garbage can.
"This is my fifth year studying Japanese. However, up until now, my experiences with the [Japanese] culture were limited to whatever videogame I've been playing, or anime I've been watching," said attendee Kevin Ryu. "It was nice to get a hands on experience with Japanese traditional music through the taiko."
The workshop was the first time the members of the Japanese club ever played the taiko, but it definitely won't be the last. Following this workshop, students will begin practicing for fun and in hope to perform at North's 2012 International Night and even the Foreign Language Honor Society Induction Ceremony.