© Lisa Shara; Published at North State Parent
Taiko is an ancient Japanese style of drumming that, in the last half century, has undergone an evolution into an ensemble performing art. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a taiko performance, you may already be hooked on the excitement, skill and team work exemplified.
Julie Bennett has been a member of Northern California’s Shasta Taiko ensemble for 16 years. The ensemble was formed by Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba over 25 years ago. Last February Julie began fulfilling a personal dream: “I have wanted to teach taiko to children for a long time,” she says. “Having seen taiko performers who have grown up in the world of drumming, I realize how it can impact a child’s growth and talent, and motivate them to pursue their artistic passions.”
“The young people I see in taiko today are centered, focused, extremely dedicated and disciplined. I am so impressed with their maturity and abilities,” says Julie. In her classes, students work together as a team through exercise, creativity and rhythmic awareness, as well as solo improvisation. Keller King, age 6, was a student in Julie’s first children’s class series. He says, “Taiko was really fun. We learned patterns, how to count to ten in Japanese, and drum beats.”
Movement is an important aspect of taiko, explains Julie. “Taiko is based on the elements of nature: the taiko stance or “kata” (body position) represents our connection to the earth; the flowing upper body movements represent wind; our feelings while playing represent water; and our power and determination to be one with the drum represent fire.”
In the classes students also learn about the history of taiko, and listen to Japanese legends about the taiko (which translates to “fat drum”). “The taiko experience brought us a fun and disciplined approach to rhythm through unique access to the ancient roots of drumming,” says Cedra Hill, parent of a taiko student. She adds, “Taiko for kids is an extraordinary opportunity to explore new dimensions of sound, rhythm, teamwork and culture.”
For Julie, “Taiko has been such an inspiration for me and has literally changed my life. It has allowed me to use my dance background and to develop performance skills as a soloist and as an ensemble player.”
A new series of children’s Shasta Taiko classes taught by Julie begins Wednesday, February 11. The classes are for ages 6-14 and are held at the Mt. Shasta City Park Rod and Gun Club building. Cost of the series is $180 for 12-classes, and can be paid monthly. To find out more and to enroll, call or email Julie Bennett at (530) 926-6577;