Tiffany Tamaribuchi is a trailblazer and world renowned, loved and respected teacher and performer. Tiffany has applied determination, perseverance and passion to create a powerful new voice in what was a largely male-dominated art form of taiko, and even more so the community of odaiko players, when she entered the field. She travelled to study with teachers in Japan and endured hours of grueling practice to achieve her current level of taiko mastery. Tiffany was a member of the Japanese group Ondekoza with whom she has toured the world. She also is the founder of Sacramento Taiko Dan, where she has welcomed and taught people of all ages taiko technique and her many compositions since 1989, as well as an annual odaiko intensive workshop called Taiko Baka. Tiffany formed and coordinates JO-Daiko, an exclusively women's taiko ensemble which performs at events focused on women's issues. Embodying strong and commanding images, JO-Daiko's voice awakens a sense of self-empowerment for women-both as performers and spectators.
*Tiffany is unable to perform in this show due to illness.
Stuart Paton, Founder and Artistic Director of Burlington Taiko spent most of his childhood in Japan, from age nine months through eighteen years. His earliest exposure to taiko included a first-grade fascination with the drums at an Obon celebration in Tokyo, and learning "Matsuri Daiko" from the composer of the score for his high school drama production. His formal study of taiko began in 1984 during a summer apprenticeship with Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka, the founder of the first taiko group in North America (San Francisco Taiko Dojo), and he founded the Burlington Taiko Group in 1986 not long after settling in Vermont.
Esther lived in Japan from the mid-1980’s to early 1990’s in the cities of Matsuyama and Hiroshima, teaching English. Despite norms that excluded women from playing taiko, Esther persisted by showing up to watch classes and asking the instructor to allow her to learn. Eventually, she was assigned to a drum and student to help her. She was a quick study and was soon performing and teaching taiko in Matsuyama. Esther moved back to the States to be near her aging parents in Arizona, where she built and opened her own taiko school and founded Fushicho Daiko, or Phoenix Drummers. Her taiko school was host to her own professional performing group, as well as various student groups, where she instructed hundreds of learners of all ages over the years. Esther was a foundational member of the committee that organized the annual Phoenix Matsuri Festival, the second largest Japanese festival in the US. Esther retired from Fushicho Daiko in 2011 to move to Michigan and start a taiko program at Kalamazoo College, along with her group, Michigan Hiryu Daiko.
Eileen was Esther’s professional partner in Fushicho Daiko and also led her own classes there and taught taiko to many children throughout Arizona’s schools. Eileen is an accomplished musician who was a state and national accordion champion as a kid, then obtained a bachelor’s degree in music education followed by a master's degree focused on teaching music to children with hearing impairments. She has performed with Fushicho Daiko throughout Arizona, the Southwest and Japan. School residencies and assemblies, festivals across the state, library and community enrichment, corporate and business teambuilding and cultural events have honed her mission to share the rich history and cultural significance of taiko while emphasizing the power and joy of community building through the arts. In 2011, when Esther retired and moved to Michigan, Eileen became executive and artistic director of Fushicho Daiko Dojo/Studio, expanding the studio to more than 70 students and 9 Taiko ensembles, including two children’s groups and beginning, intermediate and advanced groups for adults. As an individual artist, Eileen performs and teaches taiko, Japanese bamboo wind instruments, and the Korean changgo drum.
Shido is a self-taught musician who grew up in post-World War II Tokyo, influenced by 60’s iconic musical artists like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane. When he moved to California in his 20’s, he met and began to collaborate with jazz and rock musicians in the San Francisco Bay area, gigging regularly with Kenny Endo and Makoto Horiuchi at Jigoku, and working as a recording artist in Tokyo and the US. Shido later moved to New York City’s lower east side where he gigged with reggae band, Thunda Vida. In 2010, Shido moved to the Pioneer Valley and shifted his musical focus to composing, playing and recording digital music. Currently, he creates songs playing bass and synthesizer combined with sounds he and others have sampled. Locally, Shido has played bass with the late Charles Neville and his son Khalif and composed and played live music for sculptor Thomas Matsuda’s Purification series. You can listen to his hundreds of compositions at https://soundcloud.com/hiroyuki-shido
Abby Kingman started playing taiko in 2013 as a student at Mountain River Taiko. She began to explore a wide range of taiko styles soon after beginning to play, attending conferences and taking intensive workshops and private instruction with renowned and beloved performers from the United States, Japan and Canada. Since leaving Mountain River Taiko Abby has performed with a number of ensembles. In recent years, Abby’s main focus areas have been Edo Bayashi, the 400-year old festival music of old Tokyo and Eisa, a performing art from from Okinawa that combines drumming and dancing. Abby is excited to join with Mountain River Taiko to celebrate this milestone anniversary
MOUNTAIN RIVER TAIKO
Olga Ehrlich - Founding Director
Olga Ehrlich began playing taiko in 1998 with Henkei Taiko in Moab, Utah, which later became the current Moab Taiko Dan. In 2000, Tiffany Tamaribuchi, the then world Odaiko champion, came to Moab for a workshop and subsequently became Sensei for the group. Under Tiffany's teaching, Olga refined her kata, or form, and also came to understand the rich roots of taiko music. Olga moved to Arizona in 2002 and began studying and performing with Esther Vandecar's groups Phoenix Taiko Kai and Fushicho Daiko. While a member of Esther's dojo, Olga had the opportunity to take workshops with world renowned taiko artists from the groups Kodo, Shidara and On Ensemble, as well as Kenny Endo, and members of Hanayui. Together with members of Fushicho Daiko, Olga studied taiko in Japan with Kurumaya Sensei in Fukui and performed to a live audience in Nagoya. These were life-shaping events. In 2010, Olga moved to the Pioneer Valley and continued to practice her repertoire while looking for a local taiko group. When it became apparent by 2011 that none existed, she began offering beginner taiko classes as Mountain River Taiko. Key to the MRT mission was a welcoming and success-oriented teaching style and a cooperative, joyful taiko community, through which students learned the history of contemporary Japanese music and related culture. Eventually, a performing group was formed and ongoing beginner sessions happened multiple times per year. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, Olga had brought Tiffany Tamaribuchi, Kenny Endo, Takeru Matsushita, and Kenji Furutate to teach workshops, and led the Smith College Taiko Ensemble in addition to teaching students at the Hampshire Regional School, Longmeadow High School, and others. Olga moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2021, where she plays taiko as a member of the Great Lakes Taiko Center.
When she first learned that her college had a taiko group, she figured it would be a fun and unique way to stay connected to her Japanese heritage-- but soon discovered it was so much more! Brown RISD/Gendo Taiko became her first taiko family and formed the core of her college experience. After graduating, Miho joined the Genki Spark (Boston, MA) for six months as an intern/guest artist and learned about the power of personal stories and the bombastic Genki spirit. After moving to western Massachusetts, Miho was thrilled to find yet another taiko group to call home! She joined Mountain River Taiko in 2015 and wholeheartedly enjoys playing taiko with amazing people in beautiful rural New England.
When Lynne’s kids flew the nest, she felt it was time to put some energy into playing an instrument, but one that she thought she could manage and wouldn’t be too technical! But from day one she felt like she was in elementary school music class having a great time making lots of loud noise! She says, “Little did I know how much I'd also enjoy the group dynamic and performance aspects of taiko, with Pride parade being my standout favorite event!” Lynne is looking forward to the ongoing growth of Mountain River Taiko.
Lena loves the fun, the heart, the beat of taiko, the connection to Japanese culture and traditions and to the evolving current taiko world. She started in the same beginner’s class with Lynne in January 2015 and loves her taiko twin sister and the whole MRT family. Lena was born in Japan and lived there for much of her twenties and thirties, during which time her children were born. She loves having such a joyful connection to Japan in her daily life here. Lena recently became a grandmother and plans to share the joy of taiko with her grandchildren.
Tim is a software developer, potter, and handbell director living in Amherst. His first exposure to taiko was in a workshop at a handbell festival in 2011, which introduced him to the combination of rhythm, physicality and culture of taiko. After seven years of ringing handbells with New England Ringers and wanting to explore taiko more, he found Mountain River Taiko in 2018 and has been enjoying playing with this “wonderful group of people” ever since.