Taiko Master Class by Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka

Saturday March 19th
11:00-12:30PM, Mu Taiko Studio
Open to all skill levels
$35 in advance, $40 at door
Class size limited to 25 people
He will be performing as a guest artist in Zakir Hussain and Masters of Percussion at Pantages Theater Saturday 3/19 8PM


San Francisco Taiko Dojo was founded in 1968 by Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka, who is considered the father of modern taiko in North America.

Tanaka, the son of a professional baseball player, was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1943. He spent his youth in a prefecture near Nagano and, like his father, grew into a skilled athlete. He attended the Chiba University of Commerce on a baseball scholarship, graduating in 1964. Shortly thereafter, he visited the United States for the first time.

It was on a visit to the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown in 1967 that Tanaka discovered his calling. He was surprised to learn that there was no taiko drumming at the festival in San Francisco or for that matter, anywhere else during his travels within the United States. “In Japan, taiko drumming is played at practically every occasion—especially special ones like festivals or ceremonies” he said. Tanaka immediately concluded that he wanted to introduce this powerful musical art form to the United States, and he dreamed that the word “taiko,” like “karate” and “sushi,” would one day become an integral part of the American vocabulary.

So thereafter, Tanaka returned to Japan and sought out taiko visionary Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi of Osuwa Daiko to teach him the art, traditions, and philosophies of taiko.

In 1968, Tanaka returned to make his debut performance as the sole taiko drummer at the annual San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival. That same year, he established San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the first such school in the United States. Known as Sensei to his students, Tanaka is often heard saying that the essence of taiko is not only the skillful playing of percussion instruments, but also the discipline of mind and body in the spirit of complete respect and unity among the drummers. To Tanaka, taiko drumming can be expressed in one word—“heartbeat.” “We listen to it before we are born, it is instinctive.”

Over 45 years have passed since the founding of San Francisco Taiko Dojo and more than 15,000 men, women, and children of all walks of life have been fortunate to study under Tanaka Sensei. Many of these students have gone on to begin over 250 other taiko groups throughout the United States and Canada.

In Tokyo, the drum maker to the Emperor founded an academy—Nihon (Japan) Taiko Dojo—based on Tanaka Sensei’s teachings and taiko philosophy.

Tanaka Sensei has also been recognized and awarded by various countries for his talents and contributions to the preservation of Japanese traditions and culture.

Tanaka has collaborated with a number of renown artists, including Art Blakey, Max Roach, Tito Puente, Babatunde Olantunji, Narada Michael Waldren, Kitaro, Mickey Hart, Mario Bauza, Tony Bennett, Bobby McFerrin, and Dave Brubeck. Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka and San Francisco Taiko Dojo have also been featured in the movie soundtracks for Apocalypse Now, The Right Stuff and has contributed to Return of the Jedi and Rising Sun.

Tanaka Sensei currently continues teaching hundreds of students in the art of taiko and lives in San Francisco with his wife, fine artist Kumiko, and son Ryuma, the general manager of San Francisco Taiko Dojo.


KOSHI Workshop by Michelle Fujii

Class Date:
Saturday, June 11, 2016
9:30 – 11:30pm
$35 in advance, $40 at the door
Open to all levels.Koshi translates as “hips” in Japanese, but it is more than just the side of your body. It is the key to understanding your power to play taiko. This workshop, taught with multiple perspectives, will focus on movement drills and exercises to physically deepen your understanding of koshi, and in turn make you a strong taiko player.

Michelle Fujii creates contemporary work as a 4th generation Japanese-American through theart formm of taiko, Japanese drums, and Japanese folk dance placing “traditional” ethnic art within the present – not as a preservation – but as an active force that can continue to inspire and evolve. Fujii started her taiko training as a performing member of San Jose Taiko. After graduating with a degree in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, Fujii rejoined San Jose Taiko as artistic staff. In 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Bunka-cho fellowship from the Japanese government to study with Japan’s foremost traditional folk dance troupe, Warabiza, where she studied under the tutelage of master dancer/choreographer Shohei Kikuchi.  Fujii has played with numerous groups including TAIKOPROJECT, On Ensemble, Shasta Taiko and served as Artistic Director of Portland Taiko for 9 years.

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Guest Workshop with Taiko Project

Class Date:
Sunday  April 24, 2016
2:00 – 4:00pm
Open to all skill levels
We are excited to be hosting a guest workshop, hosted by Taiko Project. This 2-hour workshop will focus on Double-drum Playing (based on their song Many Sides/Yodan Uchi).

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Yatai Class with Megan Smith

Class Dates:
Session 1 (6 weeks): 1/9/2016 – 2/13/2016
Session 2 (5 weeks): 2/27/2016 – 3/26/2016
Session 3 (6 weeks): 4/30/2016 – 6/25/2016
9:30 – 11:00am
5 week session: $150
6 week session: $180
Per class: $35
Some taiko experience helpful – All levels are welcome!

Megan Chao Smith will be teaching several 6 week sessions focused on yatai-bayashi. Challenge yourself in this dynamic and physically demanding style of taiko drumming.

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Mu Training Institute (MTI)
Open Auditions for TAIKO training scholarships
No experience necessary
Sunday Dec. 6th at 4:30PM
Mu Daiko’s Taiko Studio

MTI is Mu Performing Arts training program for aspiring Asian American artists in both Theater and Taiko. This program provides scholarships for unique training classes, workshops and mentoring to develop the next wave of Mu artists.

Please email or call to reserve your spot: noelle@muperformingarts.org or 651.789.1012