Taiko celebrates a decade at The Center | TheUnion.com

Taiko celebrates a decade at The Center

Grass Valley Taiko will celebrate 10 years of Japanese drumming under the leadership of Mitzi Garnett with a concert at The Center for the Arts featuring the father of North American Taiko, Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, and members of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the largest and oldest group in the western world.

Both Tanaka and Garnett have much in common rooted in taiko drumming. Both had a vision, fueled by their passion.

In the late 1960s, while enjoying a Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown, a youthful Tanaka observed that there were no taiko drummers in the celebration. On returning to Japan, he took up taiko drumming, studying under Grand Master Daihachi Oguchi of Osawa, Japan. He ultimately returned to San Francisco and became the lone drummer at the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Tanaka subsequently founded the San Francisco Taiko Dojo where he continues teaching this centuries’ old art form to adults and children. Many teachers of taiko throughout the United States have been influenced by Tanaka’s teachings and Garnett is among them.

While living in Japan in the 1980s, Garnett kept hearing the beating of drums. Curious, she donned running shoes and ran to “follow the beat,” which led her to a group of Japanese taiko drummers. With the group’s limited English and her limited Japanese, she was introduced to taiko drumming. When she returned to the states she stumbled upon the San Francisco Taiko Dojo in the 1990s and began her studies under Tanaka.

Garnett moved to Grass Valley in the late 1990s and sought others in the area to help continue her studies. She was exposed to other styles and modern interpretations of taiko, but preferred the traditional forms learned from Tanaka. With that vision, she founded Grass Valley Taiko 10 years ago. Staying true to the spirit of taiko, and periodically, with members of Grass Valley Taiko in tote, she returns to San Francisco and to Tanaka for inspiration and training.

Today Grass Valley Taiko produces concerts and performs at the Nevada County Fair, schools, parades, festivals and weddings. The group has hosted two taiko camps locally, attended by taiko drummers and masters from around the world. For the past four years Grass Valley Taiko has performed with the San Francisco Taiko Dojo at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

This year, on Oct. 23, Tanaka and Garnett, along with their respective groups, will perform at The Center for the Arts.

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