For today’s Taiko Voices we’re going to meet Kim Morrison, a member of Miyako Taiko, the community group of the Mark H Taiko School. We talked about how she got into taiko and asked her about experience at CONNECT 2018, which will be of interest to those of you who might be considering signing up for CONNECT 2020!
Tell us a little about who you are outside of taiko and what brought you to the area.
I’m a native of the San Francisco Bay area, born and raised. It was such a unique and wonderful place to grow up. After finishing grad school in Boston, I came to DC in 1996 and have worked in the federal government for 22 years. I have a lot of wonderful friends here and DC is definitely my home now.
How did you first encounter taiko?
So, this is kind of crazy. There were all kinds of opportunities to learn and perform taiko growing up in the Bay area, but I didn’t know about it until I was in college, at UCLA. I was on the women’s crew team. One of the members worked at the performing arts center on campus and one morning she came to practice and she said, “Kim – I saved you a ticket. It’s the last performance. It’s the most amazing and incredible thing you’ll ever see. You HAVE to see this.”
I said “what is it?” and she said it was the Kodo drummers of Japan, and I said, “oh that does sound really cool. How much is the ticket?” Now, this was 1988/89, and I’m a poor undergraduate with student loans. The ticket was 30 bucks or something – it was steep for a student. I immediately backpedaled, but she was bossy, and she insisted. She said, “No, you’re going!” Mind you, she’s a very successful litigator now… And indeed it was one of the most life changing things I’d ever seen. What stuck me was juxtaposition of something incredibly creative and artistic and musical, balanced with the performers who are like Olympic level athletes.
So then, you ran right out and took a class?
As soon as I saw the performance I thought, oh my god I have to take a class to learn how to do that! But then I immediately talked myself out of it for some reason, thinking, oh, it must be like the circus, you have to be born into a family that does it… And meanwhile I’m in Los Angeles, I grew up in the Bay area, there’s all kinds of taiko groups. But this was the days before the internet – we just had the yellow pages – and it didn’t even occur to me to ask.
Years went by, and every time Kodo came to the US, I never missed it. And then, I don’t even know what prompted me to do this – I do think that life puts you on a timeline when things are meant to be – it was January 2016, I was doing some shopping online, and out of the blue, maybe a guardian angel was whispering my ear, I typed in ‘taiko drumming classes Washington DC” and of course Mark’s website popped up. It really was fate. I called and was told there was one spot open in an intro taiko class the next Sunday. From that first day, I was so filled with joy and delight – it was even more fun than I thought it would be. I was completely hooked.
What are some things that stood out about your experience at CONNECT last time?
One of the most memorable things was the diversity of taiko players – you’d expect a lot of east coast folks – but we had for example Wendy, who was from Minnesota, and even some from other countries like Naoko from Canada and Meg from Taiwan. It was such a wonderful opportunity to network with like-minded taiko enthusiasts.
I also liked that the four instructors each brought something very very different, so I never felt like I was repeating stuff. I think Mark was very strategic in who he asked to come, because all of it felt fresh and different.
How did it compare to other taiko conferences you’ve been to?
Compared to other conferences where everyone is running off to do their own thing, CONNECT felt more like we were all in it together. It felt more cohesive because the structure of CONNECT is that everyone is rotating though the same four instructors, instead of a whole menu of different workshops. So there’s a common theme and a shared experience tying everyone together. When we’re talking between things, we’re about to go to the workshop that the person is raving about that they just came from.
It also feels more intimate – sort of like how people describe going to a small liberal arts college where everyone knows everyone and it’s more like a family. For me personally that’s more meaningful.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s CONNECT?
I’m especially excited about Ryo Shimamoto, who is coming back – that was one of my all time favorite workshops I’ve ever taken anywhere.
I can understand how he and Mark are close because I see a lot of similarity – their passion for taiko, and their passion specifically for teaching. Mark has said many times that as much as he loves performing taiko, his calling is teaching taiko, and I see that in Ryo – his incredible passion and amazing energy. It’s so inspiring and so much fun to take his workshops.
Anything else you want people to know, if they’re thinking of signing up?
I know people have to worry about cost, time off from work, traveling, family – life challenges that don’t make it easy – but I think it’s such a unique taiko community experience and learning opportunity. I think if people knew what they were missing, they’d regret it. For me, during CONNECT 2018, I was supposed to travel for a work training class. I decided to bow out because I figured, I could do that any time – when I am going to get to do this? I’m so glad I made that choice.
Be sure to join us for CONNECT 2020 – registration opens Feb 1st!