I had a fantastic week during my visit to Hawaii. It was hard to believe that I hadn't been back in over seven years, but it quickly felt like I had never left. The average tourist could easily focus on the great weather and spectacular scenery of the islands, but the things I really missed had to do with the daily-life culture there - the generosity and openness of people, along with an easygoing feeling that cultivates time to get together and talk story. Although this was mainly a work trip, these were the things that made my visit possible and so memorable.
The first workshop I taught was for Taiko Center of the Pacific. I started as a student of this taiko school when I moved to Honolulu in 2001, and then eventually became an instructor. This workshop was titled "Pulse, Ji, and Ensemble Playing" and I asked the participants to try my exercises dealing with tempo control, dynamics, following the leader, and producing a consistent sound. I was very pleased with how well everyone played together despite having a wide mix of experience levels. The second TCP workshop I taught was for the youth group. The requested topics included soloing and ensemble playing. When I asked each member what they were interested in covering, the top two answers were to be able to play tighter with the ji (accompaniment) and to create more unique and memorable solos. Everyone could already play well so it was fun working with the students and seeing them adapt to the new concepts I introduced. A huge thank you to Kenny, Chizuko, Brock, Terri, and everyone at TCP for inviting me and putting together the workshops.
I was happy to work for the first time with Ryugen Taiko. They requested a composition workshop and it was great to have three hours to spend discussing topics such as inspiration, form, notation, dynamics, and analysis. I enjoyed the energy of this group and look forward to seeing their original compositions in the near future. Thank you to Nolan, Greg, and everyone at Ryugen Taiko for the wonderful hospitality and interest in my workshop.
My final workshop of the week was for my good friends at Nakama, a very special group who I usually catch up with during taiko conferences. Saying they have fun is probably still an understatement, and the laughter is absolutely infectious. There was no preplanned workshop topic but we ended up working on Keith's original piece. I liked having the opportunity to learn the patterns and then find ways to make the music speak more clearly, especially for the sections where there are multiple parts happening at the same time. After the workshop, our party continued over dinner at a nearby Okinawan restaurant. Thank you so much to Dee, Keith, John, and the Nakama family for an unforgettable time.
On the morning after my arrival, I was trying to sleep in to counteract my jet lag when a text message arrived asking if I was available for a performance starting in one hour. I said yes and rushed down to the chapel at Kapiolani Community College for a lecture demonstration with Kenny Endo and the TCP ensemble, pulling in 5 minutes before downbeat, just enough time to change and hear the setlist. Everything came back to me, including how to wear the costume and the repertoire which I hadn't played in almost 8 years. While this one was a surprise, I actually knew about another performance happening on the weekend. It was a wedding gig at one of the big Waikiki hotels, something I had done many times while living in Honolulu. This one felt like a luxury, as there was a rehearsal and extra time to hang out with the ensemble members. Thank you to Kenny and Chizuko for including me in these performances.
This trip was a success because of the generosity of my friends, who provided me a place to stay, lent me their car, didn't let me pay for any meals, booked workshops, and provided an unlimited supply of helpfulness. Thank you so much to Kirstin, Dee & Keith, Kenny & Chizuko, Terri & Glenn, Brock, Nolan, Miles, Eric, Ai, and all of my friends in Hawaii. I will be back very soon!