Building community and supporting other artists are founding principles of the Mark H Taiko experience, so it came as no surprise that Mark H. Rooney would quickly pivot to online offerings during the pandemic. I’ve had the great privilege to study taiko with Mark in his Takoma Park community classes since early 2014. Since then I’ve gotten to play in community with others, perform in festivals, attend fantastic concerts and study a wide variety of techniques in workshops with guest artists. This “former non-musician” even built her own drum!
But for me, by far the best Mark H offering has been the amazing Meet the Artist events. Mark has brought some of the greatest taiko artists in the world to share with us, in an intimate, small-group setting. In the last few years I’ve had the great joy to hear from and see performances by Shoji Kameda, Kaoru Watanabe, Tiffany Tamaribuchi, Marco Lienhard, and Kenny Endo, and to learn Obon dance from Noriko Nakamura.
Since being bitten by the taiko bug, I follow lots of taiko folks online, and in the fall of 2019 I was excited to hear about a Kickstarter campaign for HERbeat. If you aren’t familiar, HERbeat was an amazing all-women taiko project, culminating in a concert and making-of movie project. I quickly donated and have followed the project with great interest, so imagine my delight when Mark announced that one of the HERbeat artists, Yurika Chiba, would be our first virtual “Meet the Artist” guest.
Yurika plays with San Jose Taiko and her infectious enthusiasm is incredible. She’s also a talented, whimsical artist and creator of TaikoCat. Logging on to her Meet the Artist event, I was happy to see so many familiar, and new, faces on the Zoom screen, playfully toasting with Kombucha, cider, or tea. As always the event felt intimate and was a perfect combination of personal introduction/background and experiential participation. We learned a lot about Yurika’s journey to taiko and art. She led us in a flash-card guided movement exercise that was ideal for the Zoom platform. She also shared philosophy on cue cards. One that particularly resonated with me was “the fullness of life is incubated in its messy places.” Indeed.
The audience participated in a good and wide-ranging Q&A session, finally getting the definitive answer to the question “Does Canadian money smell like syrup?” (Depends on what you had for breakfast). My only regret was not being able to see, hear, and feel Yurika play in person. I’ll hold out hope for that to happen in future.
If you have the opportunity to join a future “Meet the Artist” event, don’t miss the chance. These are the “cream of the crop” of performers and teachers in the taiko world, brought to your virtual doorstep, by a kind and generous man who helped introduce me to my inner drummer.