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A bonding experience

Some families watch movies together, while others get close by traveling. In Nevada County, a growing number of families bond by banging on drums.

“It’s the best therapy session you could possibly imagine,” says Mitzi Garnett, founder and artistic director of Grass Valley Taiko.

Taiko is a Japanese style of ensemble drumming that combines movement and rhythm.



Taiko families say the discipline required by the art, coupled with the time they spend together building their drums and practicing, helps them work out tensions and improve communications.

“It gives us something to talk about when we come home,” says David Imel, 12, of Smartville, who plays in the performance ensemble with his parents, Joe and Lori, and sister Morgan. “It just helps us relate to each other more.”




Taiko works on many different levels from the spiritual to the visceral, says Garnett. As the Taiko master, she’s harder on her sons Jake, 12, and Jess, 7, than she is on other children in the group, she says.

At the same time, because Taiko is the family’s main focus, Garnett believes that drumming together has given them a special bond.

“Even if it’s in class, we’re together and just sharing something in our life,” says Garnett.

Jess Garnett, 7, spent time in several foster homes before Garnett adopted him three years ago. Jess had been having “issues with anger,” Garnett says, and taking his frustrations out on her, until last year when she decided he was old enough to start learning Taiko.

“It’s hard to be mad when you’ve pounded on a drum for a while,” says Garnett.

Since then, her relationship with Jess has improved significantly. Jess’ teacher has reported his progress at school, calling Taiko his “savior.”

“It’s important to him,” says Garnett. “One of the first things he said to me when I met him was that he wanted a family.

“I don’t think he realized just how big a family he was getting into,” she adds, referring to Jess’s extended family of more than 50 Taiko players.

For the Imel family, the six to ten hours they spend weekly at Taiko practice helps them see one another differently, according to Lori Imel.

“We all have different strengths,” says Imel. “Taiko helps us realize we’re all

different individuals within a family, and yet we come together as one.”

In addition to three rehearsals a week, Taiko members get together for mah jongg nights, where they eat a pot luck dinner and play the Chinese tile game.

A family atmosphere has developed within the group, which includes members from five to 75 years old.

Besides instilling a warm feeling, Taiko members say drumming brings them a healthy dose of fun.

“I can be having a really lousy day,” says Joe Imel, “But when we walk in and start playing Taiko, I forget everything and start enjoying it.”

Watch an audio slideshow featuring Taiko families talking about drumming together at http://www.theunion.com/mediacenter.

Grass Valley Taiko will perform two shows on Wednesday, July 11 during Nevada City’s Summer Nights at the Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street. Shows start at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. For more information, go to http://www.nevadatheatre.com or call 265-6161.

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To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail jillb@theunion.com or call 477-4219.


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