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Taiko Talks!

Helena-area students and teachers engaged in 3 days of powerful workshops last week with Unit Souzou!

Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe, of Unit Souzou, a Japanese Taiko group based in Portland, OR, first led a series of Taiko workshops with Mrs. Beaver’s and Mrs. Ramirez’ 4th and 5th grade students at Smith Elementary. Students learned basic Taiko principles and how to play on day one, and day two found them focusing on self-expression and storytelling through the drum. Students sequenced rhythms and manipulated sound volume to express different aspects of emotion and character. Smith students said that playing Taiko made them feel powerful, excited, special, confident and amazing. They expressed their enchantment with Taiko by saying…

“That felt amazing!!!”

“It shook the room and I could feel the vibrations in my chest.”

“Just playing the loud music could help you learn to speak up.”

“Playing loud or soft can help you learn how to deal with your anger, and doing kara (a taiko rhythm) can make you feel power.”

Students from PAL and Helena Public School teachers each experienced their own workshop-fun with Unit Souzou right here on The Myrna stage! These 2 workshops explored Taiko basics and history as well as the concepts of community building, leadership and support, and rhythmic storytelling. Michelle, of Unit Souzou, set the stage by explaining, “Today we’re going to be celebrating our togetherness and unity, so when we play all together we’re going to sound like one,” and encouraged self-expression and leadership by saying, “Soft is not weak. You don’t have to be the loudest in the room to be the strongest.”

Teachers found their time with Unit Souzou to be particularly impactful and shared the following thoughts…

“I am going home feeling better about my job and my place in this world.”

“I feel energized – physically, mentally, and socially. This was an incredible way to interact and bond with my colleagues from other buildings. I was struck with a profound sense of gratitude for being taught by experts. It is such a privilege to be the learner rather than the teacher… this helped reignite a sense of pride in being able to stand up in front of young people and be their teacher.”

“The concept of ‘leadership’ being a communal act rather than an individual effort is one I will definitely be bringing back to class.”

“This experience had a joyous impact on me. I smiled the whole time.”

Special thanks to Mrs. Beaver, Mrs. Ramirez, and their students at Smith, Sam Leonard and Isaiah Cech and their students at PAL, and Helena Public Schools for partnering with us! And thank you to the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation for making this residency possible.

Photo Credit Retta Leaphart and Mikell Fox

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