“Through the unity of the beat, students express their pride and strength, while discovering how to build a strong and powerful ensemble and community together.”
Michelle brings rich artistic and cultural experiences to schools that deeply engage students of all ages and abilities. Co-director of Unit Souzou and Korekara Taiko, she creates an expressive blend of taiko and Japanese folk dance, forging new traditions for evolving communities.
“As a blend of musical, visual, and physical forms, taiko fully engages the mind and body,” says Michelle.
What led you to be a teaching artist?
I am inspired to guide students into discovering their personal pride and strong voice through the powerful sound of taiko. In my childhood, I struggled to understand where I fit in. Taiko helped me discover my identity, respect my heritage, and break stereotypes.
There are three core values that center all my lessons:
- Respect: showing care and honor towards oneself, the ensemble/others, and the taiko
- Cooperation: playing taiko well means working well together
- Perseverance: never giving up on oneself
Empathy is another element that is vital to my teaching practice. I share with students that taiko was my avenue to learn about my family history, and gave me the bravery to ask questions of my grandmother. I demonstrate how I create songs to represent her story. I then ask students to create compositions to demonstrate their own histories, using a system of solfege solmization, where certain words represent different sounds and textures on the drum. By listening to each other’s drum stories, students learn more about each other and find connections.
Taiko came to the United States at a time when many people of color were finding their voices during the Civil Rights era. For many Asian Americans, the thunderous beat of the drum resounded throughout communities, providing a backdrop to be heard. Taiko still has this special power to inspire all to find their stories and speak up.