By Audrey Hathaway
Mississinawa Valley Music Teacher
UNION CITY, Ohio — What in the world is Taiko? That was the first question I had when my principal came to the general music teacher and myself fifteen years ago. It is also the question I am asked nearly every time I tell people what I teach. The short answer is that it is an ancient form of Japanese Drumming that was originally used as communication between villages. With the advent of more modern communication methods, Taiko fell by the wayside, however, after WWII it was revived in dojos as an art form. Taiko uses elements of martial arts in the choreography and driving rhythms to excite the audience.
Our Taiko group at Mississinawa Valley was started fifteen years ago. Eric Peyton, from Capital University, came to our school as an Artist-in-residence and we made 15 practice drums out of farm drainage tile and cowhides. Our first students in the group helped with this process and had several drumming lessons with Sensei Peyton. Our first big performance that year was our trip the Ohio Statehouse to perform at the Celebrate Ohio event.
We sat down and made a wish list of what we would like for our group. At the top was a set of performance drums. When we started doing research and realized that the drums were thousands of dollars each, it was determined we could not afford the performance drums. This did not stop us. After researching the internet we found some plans on how to make performance drums out of supplies that were readily available here in the United States. We made all of the Nagada drums we use out of 26 inch diameter PVC pipe and cowhides that we had shipped in from Texas. We worked with a local woodshop and a local metal machining shop to make our smaller Shime-Daiko drums. Our bachi (or drum sticks) are made out of one inch oak dowels that are rounded around the edges and taped with clear hockey tape to aid in durability. We also made all of the Kimono style costumes we use in our performances. It has been a huge learning curve.
We have added more instruments and playing styles to our group through the years and we were proud to be able to perform as guests at several live performances this year, including Greenville School’s “A Night in Hollywood,” two Greenville nursing homes, Spirit Medical Emergency Services Kickoff to EMS Week, and King’s Island Amusement park. Our crowning achievement this year was auditioning for Ohio Has Talent and being selected as finalists. We will compete on June 18, 2022, at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, Ohio. We would love to have a huge cheering section follow us up there. You can go to the following link to purchase tickets to come and view our performance at www.vanwertlive.com.