Thursday, December 29, 2016

Goodbye to 2016...

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It's always hard to remember how much stuff I've done over the last 12 months when I write these recap posts!

We had a great home concert with 11 new works from songs to transitions, and I was happy to see Left to My Own Devices be performed.  I don't know if there's life in it after its debut; I really liked the gimmick of having one hand play a simple beat non-stop plus adding a ton of polyrhythms, but now that it's out of my head, I might be ok leaving it there.  We'll see!

Definitely felt like I grew as an odaiko player because of all the prep I did for the solo in the concert.  It helps to have a drum that I can reach up and play on instead of adjust because of my size.

Only two weeks of touring, and early in the year, but that was it.  One of the busier tours but touring is one of those things that you really enjoy when you're doing it and really miss it when you don't.  Well at least for me!

Lots of taiko throughout the year, but overall it was pretty normal for me.  Which is good!  Don't need a lot of crazy years.  Like next year might be...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Question everything: Strengths

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Some people are really meticulous in their jobs.  They can follow every step exactly and precisely to get the information they need.  But sometimes, those peple have trouble making leaps of faith, skipping steps for the sake of time, and/or using their intuition.

Some people are really good at making others feel comfortable.  They have a knack for getting people to loosen up and enjoy themselves in a situation.  But sometimes, those people have trouble giving necessary critique, and/or avoid making a tough decision that might upset one of the involved parties.

I'm sure you can think of several other examples like this with people that you know outside of taiko.  So how might these lessons apply to you within it?

Maybe there's something you're really good at, like having naturally fast hands or being really fluid in your movements.  At what point might those talents start becoming a detriment?  It could be that being really good at something meant you never had to think about it much, so you're not well-equipped to teach people who struggle at it.  Or that because you might be the best in your group at it, you feel you don't need to work on it (which can be a big shock if you go outside your group and see where you fall in the larger "pond".)

Or, maybe you have the ability to project joy without having to think about it.  It just beams from your face and body naturally.  But what happens when you have to play a song that requires a different energy, and find it difficult to change your energy and expression?

Or, maybe you're really creative and come up with ideas all the time, and are good at articulating the ideas.  But how are you when working in a group where other people's voices are just as important as yours?  Can you hold your thoughts in for the sake of other people getting to exercise their own creative and leadership muscles?

When taken far enough, the things we're good at can be the same things that hold us back.  It might not be obvious for some things, it might not happen with others, but if you're not questioning your abilities, how do you know?

...hell, my penchant for asking questions all the time hasn't always been the best thing for me.  ;)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Satisfaction > Fun

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People have asked me what keeps me going.  23 years of taiko is one thing, but add to that being in a group that demands a lot of commitment, is often physically demanding, not doing this for a living, not being a solo artist...why do I keep coming back?

I may change my mind about this later on, but right now I feel like what keeps me coming back for more is satisfaction.  That is, putting in effort and seeing it be fruitful.  Maybe it's in teaching a new piece or imparting knowledge through a workshop or drill.  Maybe it's in practicing for a solo in an upcoming show on a new part or song.  Maybe it's working on something I need to improve and finding success.  Regardless of how or where I find it, it is satisfying to know I was able to do that thing, I did a thing well, and/or I got better at that thing I worked on.

Can it also be fun?  Sure, but seeking "fun" can lead to disappointment.  Some people naturally try to find something fun in every activity, but what if it's not to be found?  If you're not planning the practices or performances, what might be fun to you isn't in your control.  Maybe the next 30 minutes is on a drill that you really don't care much about.  Do you suffer for your lack of finding "fun"?  Does the group?  How much fun is "enough" for one practice or performance?

It's not like fun shouldn't be part of your training, of course not.  Training without fun makes for a toxic environment.  But "fun" is a short-term thing, whereas "satisfaction" is something best suited for the long-term.  I think that's an important distinction to make!  If you're working on a drill that's difficult for you, you might not find satisfaction in it if you don't feel that you improved.  But you might find it fun to do, which is better than neither satisfied nor having had fun.

I also don't feel like my group is responsible for me having fun.  Maybe I've had a really stressful week, so should the group cater to my mood for the week?  Probably not - for me, or for anyone else, because how is that fair to the other people?  However, if the group has planned for things that are fun throughout the year, that's great!  Also great if they've set up ways and opportunities for me (and others) to improve, because then I can look back and see where I've improved.  That's satisfying, at least for me.

Everyone has their own definition of what makes a practice fun, or what makes a practice satisfying.  But it's really good to realize what's important to you and in what sort of context.  If you had fun all year long, at every rehearsal, that's great!  But you might ask yourself, "was the year satisfying?"  If you feel like you were satisfied with what you did in 2016, that's probably even better!  Why?  Because it's much less likely you'll ask yourself, "yeah, but did I have fun?"

Or am I wrong?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Taiko resolutions

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New Year's Resolutions are cliched but sometimes they're useful, right?  You think about what you want to be, what you want to achieve, and you have to reflect in order to do that.

So what about taiko resolutions for 2017?  Maybe it's something general, maybe specific.  Maybe it's easily-achievable, like going to NATC 2017, maybe it's really hard but worth trying.  It could be something you've never done before or something you don't always do.  Whatever it is, you should make one!

Me, I'm going to write a new song this year.  That's not new for me, but I still want to make myself do it.  What kind of song, what shape it will take - who knows?  But it's my resolution for 2017.  What's yours?  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What's next?

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I post stuff like this on the Facebook page, but don't often get a lot of responses, so I'm keeping it here today.

I'm wondering what, if anything, will change for the taiko world in 2017.  There's the 2017 NATC.  There's online services up already and people using the internet to give lessons.  There are more conferences and gatherings happening world-wide.  But these aren't new, even if they're growing.

What's going to be different, what's going to happen that's not happening now or not been done before?

I'm not complaining or criticizing, honestly.  Just wondering.  We might not see anything new, and that's no one's "fault".  Nor is it bad.  Maybe something big comes onto the scene and introduces a technology or opportunity we don't have yet?

Our community, as a whole, progresses slowly.  It's the nature of the art form.  There are outliers, to be sure, but it still takes years for them to affect what people do.  While there are groups that produce the highest caliber of taiko players, however you qualify that, the other 99.9% (okay, maybe 99.5%) of taiko players just play for fun.

So this post is just some food for thought, nothing more.  No one knows what the next big thing will be, how the taiko world will react, or if things will continue as they have been.  As long as people are playing from the heart, as long as people are spreading their joy with others, does it really matter?  Nah.  :)

Monday, December 12, 2016

There's always more...

A few weeks back I had a session with Staff for a "check in".  This gives us the ability to talk about what's on our minds, Staff can talk to us, and then there's time to work on things they notice about the 4 Principles in us.

My "thing" this time was that during solos, I'm not really using my lower body like I could.  Because it's easy for me to rely on my hands and arms, I'm not pushing off with the feet, activating the legs, etc.  While I'm doing it during the song, I'm slacking when soloing.

I'm posting about this partially to remember for when I read my old posts (haha), but also to show that just because you can do something well, it doesn't mean you can't do it better.  And also, even when you're really used to something, someone can see things you might not and show you improvements.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My new guidelines for composing.

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I really want to write more songs.  I have a ton of ideas that I want to explore and see which have potential.

However, I know what my tendencies are in terms of composing.  I know what I do, both good and bad, and why I'm not making more pieces.  So I recently came up with the idea of making a set of conditions for my compositions.

I don't want to call them rules, because I don't want to be limiting myself.  They're more things to keep in mind and help keep me on course.

Right now, I only have a couple, but will add more as they come to me.  No idea how many I'll come up with, but I don't want too many:

  1. You can do anything.
  2. Don't try to do everything.
Who knows, maybe this is the entire list.  We'll see.  I hope this idea of mine helps others who are trying to compose, even if my actual list doesn't!

Monday, December 5, 2016

A time for review

Last weekend was SJT's annual retreat, a 2-3 day event where we all come together and talk about out personal highlights, changes to our schedule, group goals, past events, future plans, etc.

It's evolved quite a bit since I've been going, from more of a bonding-type retreat to more of a business meeting.  It used to be a big emotional event as it was the one time a year when people could speak up, but now we have systems in place where it's not such a big build-up and people are able to focus, which in a way has mirrored the evolution of the group.

Anyways, my post today is about reflection.  What did you do this year?  What was your personal highlight?  What do you wish you had gotten to do or try?  What will you try to do next year?  There's another North American Taiko Conference next year, will you go?  What do you hope you get to do or see there?

Sometimes stepping back and looking around is the best way to plan ahead.  If you're always in the moment - or never thinking about them - then you might miss out down the road when you wish you had planned something a little better!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Withering critique

This post was inspired by Kaoru Watanabe, an excellent musician and taiko player.  He recently posted on the FB Taiko Community about how when he was in Kodo, after a show, the group would do a review, on the stage.

One show found him getting direct, harsh feedback from the director of the concert.  It was painful to read, and I can't imagine how it felt to receive.  I won't go into what he did as a result of that here (you can find it on FB) but it was positive and got him to the caliber of player he is now.

I've gotten a lot of critique over the years.  Some of it has been constructive, some of it blunt.  Some of it was 1-on-1, some of it was in front of a group.  Some of it was from peers, some of it from people whose opinions had serious weight.  Some of it was in taiko, some in karate, some professionally.

I feel like how you initially receive the hard critique isn't as important as what you do with it.  If a really mean or withering critique makes you angry or sad?  That's fine.  That's just you processing.  I totally get that.  But then what?  Assuming the critique was valid, what are you going to do about it?

It's here where a person defines themselves.  If you're "lucky", the critique was objective, given straight, and you can't argue with what was said.  But if not, it might have been given by someone you don't like, driven home more than enough times, and/or in front of enough people to be embarrassing.  Ouch.  To put your pride aside and separate the chaff from the message is hard, but if you can do it and then work on improving?  That takes some grit.

Now there's a line between harsh feedback and someone just being a jerk, as well as a difference between critique given to honestly point out what needs improvement and harping on someone because it makes them feel better.  Once those lines are crossed, things get more complicated.  Comments like that are a different sort of thing and often speak more to the critiqueR than the critiqued.

Sometimes it's harder to deal with the short-term frustration of getting comments than realizing what's best for your long-term growth.  It might help to think of proving yourself in someone's eyes to give you the motivation to try harder, or to prove to yourself that you can overcome a weakness, but whatever you do, it's best to do something.