Thursday, October 30, 2014

Five minutes with Eitetsu Hayashi

Last night we were fortunate to have a workshop with Eitetsu Hayashi and his group Fu-un no Kai.

If you don't know who Eitetsu is, please do yourself a favor and look him up.  He's credited with coming up with the style of odaiko playing most of us are familiar with: facing away from the audience while in a deep stance.

They're performing Saturday and many of us are going up to see, but it was a nice treat to have his perspective and instruction for a few hours tonight.

At the end, after giving us the fundamentals of his particular style of odaiko with some practice, he had each of us go up and do a short solo while he watched.  This was followed by critique, which was much more than just a few sentences!

I was lucky enough to go 3rd, so I got a sense of what he might comment on and had a chance to prepare myself to NOT do those things, haha.  The whole night I was dealing with having to get in a massively low stance according to his standards (being flexible was a lifesaver here), so he took the drums not being high enough for me into consideration.

Oddly enough, I didn't feel nervous playing in front of Eitetsu, I was if anything more aware that some of our auditioning class was watching!  Anyways, I played whatever came to mind while trying to remember the notes from the previous two volunteers, but afterwards he still had notes for me.  Go figure!

There were two notes, one specifically about his style of stance and one about how much I move up and down when I'm soloing.  He didn't say that motion was bad, more that I should temper it with being more solid on my front leg at times to add emphasis and highlight the motion I choose to do.  He did say that if I develop my personal style using that motion, it could be quite interesting, which was very cool to hear.

It made me realize how much I do move, because when I watch myself I'm more focused on general kata, striking technique, even projection going rearwards.  So it was nice to hear something new and valid - even though it might not be as valid outside of the style it was framed in.

Now I don't want to make this a post just about my experience tonight; I want to turn it around and make it relevant to my readers!

Many of us only play in one group, one style, one "way".  But sometimes the best way to know what you're doing is to learn fundamentals from another "way".  Doesn't matter if you use it or agree with it; it gives you perspective.  And if you're lucky, you can add what you've learned to what you're doing and come out a better player for it!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Post-show questions

After a concert, 95% of the time we'll take a procession out to the lobby and greet the audience as they leave.

Sometimes people want to take pictures, sometimes we get asked for autographs, there's a lot of thank yous, and often we get asked questions.

Some of the more common ones I get asked are:

"How heavy are those drums?" (some of us are wearing katsugi okedo of different sizes)
"How do you have so much energy?"
"What are the drums made out of?"
"How often do you practice?"
"How long have you been with the group?"

Pretty standard stuff!

But there's one question in particular that I get just about once every venue, usually by Caucasians who are over 50. It's always said in good humor. And that question is, in one form or another:

"How did a White guy get to play taiko on stage?"

Usually, I reply to that question by putting my finger to my lips and making a "shhhh" sound, then telling them that the other members don't look up high enough to realize.

Yeah, it's a cheesy response, but it's a funny one.

Have any of you gotten unusual or awkward questions after a show?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fall Tour 2014, Part 2

So, you may have noticed I didn't post as much this tour!  That was my fault; a busier schedule, some unsecured Wi-Fi, and a new smartphone (distracting!) took me off my game a bit.

Where'd I leave off?  Ah, heading to KY.

We did two days with a split crew, four of us going to one location, four going to another.  The first day we each visited a school.  My team went to a Catholic school that hadn't had an assembly like this for several decades (if I recall correctly).  We were the first in hopefully much more artistic programming. The second day was different.  The other team visited an assisted living facility, where they found many of the audience eagerly awaiting the show!  My team visited a NECCO facility which housed boys with behavioral issues.  The staff had everything handled and the audience really enjoyed themselves.  The volunteers that came up got an experience they'll never forget!

We performed the third day of residency at the Paramount Arts Center which boasts its own friendly ghost.  Our shows by then were getting stronger as we were hitting our stride, as it were.

Our next stop was a smaller stage at the Fine Arts Center in Institute, WV.  We did an informal workshop on stage only two hours after we got there, then continued the tech.  The next day was a concert and we had plenty of time to prepare, but three of staff had to get up early to do a TV spot so they got to get some extra sleep after the interview.  In the morning we did another informal workshop on stage before a good seven hours on the road to get to Silver Springs, MD.

First day was mostly tech with one informal lecture/demonstration for students and teachers.  The next morning a few of us (including myself) went to the Mall in D.C. and visited various memorials and monuments: The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the WWII memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Memorial were the ones I can think of off the top of my head.  We had lunch at a farmer's market where I chatted up a kettle corn salesman and told him to try adding garlic to his kettle corn.  I got a free bag of popcorn for that, haha.

We made sure not to get too tired before the concert that night.  The next morning we had a school show in theater and the rest of the day off.  A couple of members went to the Mall while the rest of us had an early dinner + desert with a few members of Nen Daiko, some who had come to the show the previous night.

Another seven hours on the road the next day to Elmira, NY where we had dinner with two alumni from Yamatai Taiko out of Cornell University.  The following day we loaded into our last stage at the Gibson Theatre at Elmira College, for a shorter 75-minute show with no intermission.  It was also a smaller stage than previous concerts and we had to do some mental juggling to remember the changes required for each of us.

After the show, it was a whirlwind.  The show ended around 8:45, and we had to be on the road by 4:30 AM.  So we spent some time in the lobby with the audience, changed clothes, packed up everything for return freight, and drove back to the hotel.  Some of us (me, anyways) needed to eat dinner (leftovers from the massive lunch the College provided) and shower before bed.  A whole four hours of sleep later, I was packing up and getting ready to leave.

Three flights home with short lay-overs made for a very long morning, but everything went smoothly.  Eating a lot of food helped but by around 5:00 PM, I was pretty out of it, trying to keep awake until after dinner.

I regret not posting more frequently, because there were little things here and there that stood out.  Sometimes it was the comments from the audience after songs: "get out of here" was particularly memorable after one piece, said in impression and not actually wanting us to leave!  There was a post-concert review held in a laundromat because it was convenient.  And there were many, many games of Pirate Fluxx, where my natural ability to talk like a pirate actually came in useful for once!

March 2015 is our next tour, lasting longer at around four weeks so far.  Until then, back to regular posts and we'll see what I come up with!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall Tour 2014: Part 1

It's been seven days on this tour, and things have been going rather well!

Our first stop was to Decorah, IA, where we played for a house of about 800 at Luther College.  The reception was top-notch and it's worth noting that the pre-show announcement was one of the best ever given for us.  Aside from the usual "turn stuff off", the student doing the announcement talked about the Four Principles of SJT, the places we'd done workshops, and even one of the Hawaiian desserts one of our members introduced him to.  Pretty awesome.

The next concert was in Terre Haute, IN.  We played at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to a smaller crowd of about 300, but it was a very appreciative crowd.  The crew took care of us really well from beginning to end and that's made for two really satisfying stops on our six-city tour.  We met a baseball coach in one of our workshops that had come to the concert the night before and was absolutely stoked by what he saw, noting both our choreography and our transitions.

Aside from the concerts, we've done one school show in-theater, one at a high school, and three in-theater lecture/demonstrations.

We don't have as much long-distance driving on this tour, which really helps in the long run.  We had an eight-hour drive between the two venues, but that was the longest single-day drive we'll have to endure.  We drive four hours tomorrow to Ashland, KY, and will have several simultaneous in-school school shows before another concert on Saturday night.

In some ways, this first leg has been pretty uneventful!  In a good way, though.  Will post more down the road!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Tour 2014

Tomorrow, Oct. 1st, we leave for a 3-week tour.  We leave really really early.  I think we leave so early, it will be last week.

Anyways, this tour takes us into Decorah, IA, then through Terre Haute, IN, Ashland, KY, Charleston, WV, Silver Springs MD, then we wind up in Elmira, NY.

We haven't had a tour this long in a while, and I'm looking forward to having some fun and sharing taiko with people who don't get much of a chance to see it.  I'll blog here and there, maybe more when there's something interesting or less if things are pretty normal.

Hoping the flights go well, because we've historically had bad luck flying into Iowa.  Iowa is great to us, but flying, not so much!