Taiko classes drum up confidence, agility and more for Hawaii students

By Barbara Kim Stanton, Special to the Star-Advertiser

At age 80, Carol Egan is always taking up new challenges to keep her brain and body active. She’s learning three languages: Hawaiian, French and Italian. She loves to dance hula and tap.

And her latest passion is taiko drumming.

“I’m enjoying every minute of it. Taiko is interesting, fun and different,” she said. “It’s more of a mental challenge for me. It’s a brain workout.”

A former dancer, dance critic and teacher, Egan likened the percussion of taiko to tap dance. She took up taiko five years ago and has progressed to an intermediate class.

Taiko students Carol Egan, 80, Carolyn Adler, 73, and Brenda Nakamoto, 62, practiced their drumming during a March 4 class at Washington Intermediate School in Moiliili.

At her recent 80th-birthday party, she performed a tap dance, hula and taiko piece. Her motto: “You’ve got to keep moving.”

Her sensei Kenny Endo believes that it’s never too late or too early to get started on taiko.

“There is a misconception that you must be young to start anything new,” said the 65-year-old taiko master. “You’re only as old as you feel, so mental confidence is very important.”

Physical fitness, weight loss, concentration, cultural and musical knowledge, confidence, movement and agility are among the benefits that drumming provides, according to Endo, co-founder of Taiko Center of the Pacific, a school of traditional and contemporary Japanese drumming.

Carolyn Adler, 73, started taking classes 30 years ago and has no plans to stop drumming. Physical fitness, endurance, mental focus and clarity are among the benefits that she has experienced from her taiko.

“It has become a part of my soul,” she said. “It has not kept me from getting older, but has definitely helped to keep me fit. It takes me longer to remember routines, but I have always been a slow learner, so I’m happy to have age to blame for my memory lapses.”

Deaf student Brenda Nakamoto, who has been practicing taiko for two years, called Taiko Center of the Pacific to inquire about classes offered to the hearing-impaired after dealing with a bout of depression. The 62-year-old has a fondness for the loud, fast rhythms.

“I love feeling the loud drum sounds,” she said. Camaraderie and regularly learning new rhythms keeps her coming back.

Besides “feeling good,” Nakamoto says taiko helps maintain mental clarity. “You’re never too old to learn,” she said.

The Taiko Center of the Pacific was established in 1994 by Kenny and Chizuko Endo to preserve traditional Japanese drumming.

Kenny Endo, the center’s artistic director, started drumming on his own at the age of 5, was in the school band at age 9 and started playing in a rock band at 13. He started to learn taiko at age 21 and has been a professional drummer for 40 years.

Chizuko Endo, left, leads students during a taiko drumming class on Monday, March 4, 2019 at Washington Intermediate School in Moiliili.

Taiko is an ancient Japanese form of percussion using large drums of various sizes. Its history dates back to feudal times.

“(Drums) were used to communicate and send signals. During harvest season they were used to chase the insects away, and the military used them to instill courage in their warriors,” said Chizuko Endo.

Group drumming that incorporates a music ensemble and choreographed movements wasn’t a concept until the 1950s, she explained.

“As a professional, I always say that taiko has kept me young through the physical, mental and spiritual benefits. It’s a great example of mind-body harmony,” Kenny Endo said.

“We find that in students middle age or over, that mental blocks can stop progress and inhibit confidence. Physically they are able to do something, but something in their brain is saying you can’t do it or someone your age shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

“Trying something new should be encouraged by society, especially after retirement. Seniors should also have recognized and respected ways to share their experiences and wisdom after they stop working. That’s a huge resource that society is not taking advantage of.”


Taiko Center of the Pacific

>> Email: taikoarts@gmail.com

>> Phone: 737-7236

>> On the net: taikoarts.com

Barbara Kim Stanton is the state director for AARP Hawaii, an organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.

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