Swarthmore College Taiko

Swarthmore College Taiko

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, United States

Founded 2000

Basic Information

    Swarthmore College
    Collaborative direction between Directing Professor and Leading Members

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

Through the art form of taiko, Swarthmore College Taiko aims to provide greater understanding of Japanese and Asian-American culture and traditions, while underscoring the fundamental relationships between music and dance.

Swarthmore College Taiko exists as two entities: a semester-long repertory class encouraging students to explore the possibilities of taiko, dance, and intercultural contexts, within the structure of the college environment; and as a student-directed performing ensemble devoted to the continued development and exploration of taiko as a diverse and varied modern performance art, presenting and promoting taiko throughout the Philadelphia area.

Structure and Philosophy
Describe the ensemble's organizational structure and philosophy, including leadership structure, membership policy, and instructional process.

Swarthmore College's taiko repertory class is directed by Professor of Dance Kim Arrow, with assistance from the Leading Members of the performing ensemble, and operates under the auspices of the Swarthmore Department of Music and Dance. The class is offered once a semester and has no prerequisite, and as a result is attended by students with diverse backgrounds in music and dance, as well as newcomers to the performing arts. The semester's work is intended to build towards a culminating series of performances at the end of the semester, debuting new works that Professor Arrow has created with assistance from the students. Through rehearsal of these pieces, students learn the basics of taiko philosophy and technique, as well as the fundamental concepts of music, movement, and performance.

The performing ensemble was originally established to allow participants of the repertory class to further expand upon their experiences with taiko. Most members of the ensemble were first introduced to taiko through the class, though others may enter the ensemble through the audition process held at the beginning of each school year. The ensemble is taught and directed by its Leading Members, who are chosen by the group, and receives technical assistance from Professor Arrow and the Dance Department. The performing ensemble rehearses more frequently than the class, and as a result puts more emphasis on refinement of technique and understanding of the philosophy and history of taiko. The ensemble also seeks to promote and present taiko throughout the Philadelphia area, giving multiple performances during the spring semester at Philadelphia-area colleges, Asian-American events, and other venues sponsored by the Philadelphia Japan-America Society.

Group History
Describe how, where, and why the ensemble was founded. What was its inspiration?

In the year 2000, Swarthmore dance major Sarah Gladwin received a grant from the college to study taiko during the summer. She returned from her studies and, with Professor Kim Arrow, who had a long-standing interest in intercultural music and dance, founded Swarthmore College Taiko. With the teachings and assistance of Isaburoh Hanayagi, dance and drumming instructor at Tamagawa University in Machida, Japan, the repertory class performed several pieces on campus during the 2000-2001 school year.

During the summer after the 2001-2002 school year, Joseph Small accompanied graduated seniors to Taiko Center of the Pacific. Upon his return, he put his experience to work assisting Professor Arrow in teaching and directing the group. In the fall, Sarah Gladwin and Joseph Small composed and presented Swarthmore College Taiko's first original works.

After returning from their own summer studies at the Taiko Center of the Pacific in 2003, students Alex Hudson, Joseph Small, and Andrew Verardo felt the need to share what they had learned and continue their own growth within the greater context of taiko, which was difficult within the semester-long structure of the repertory class. Alex Hudson and Joseph Small went on to study at Tamagawa University in Machida, Japan, while Andrew returned to Swarthmore to become the group's first leading member, directing the group in the absence of Professor Arrow.

Under the direction of leading members Alex Hudson and Joseph Small, the performing ensemble concluded its first successful touring season in the spring of 2004. Members of Swarthmore College Taiko also performed during the International Hawaii Taiko Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Swarthmore College Taiko concluded its second successful touring season with the presentation of its first standalone full-length concert.

List of Current Members

Alex Hudson
Joseph Small
Santiago Andujar
Edward Fu
Ian Miller
Joy Mills
Jee-Young Oh
Victoria Swisher
Mariko Terasaki
Bill Welsh
Rachel Winer

Membership Composition
(i.e. ethnicity, generation, average years of experience, musical backgrounds, and motivation for playing)

Swarthmore College Taiko is made up exclusively of students attending Swarthmore College. The repertory class is also open to faculty of Swarthmore College. The performing ensemble also conducts a Sunday session that is open to all who are interested in taiko.

Performances, Recordings, Publications

List a selection of your regular performance venues (for example, Denver Sakura Matsuri, Seabrook obon, business conventions, Manzanar Pilgrimage, Maui Marathon, etc.)

Regular on-campus performance venues include the Student Dance Concert, held at the conclusion of both the fall and spring semesters, the Dance and Drumming concert during the fall semester, and the Taiko/Gamelan Outdoor Concert during the spring semester.

Regular off-campus venues include the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival, as well as Asian-American Expos held at neighboring colleges, including Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Drexel, Villanova, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Instructors, Teachers & Mentors
List the instructors, teachers and mentors who have worked with the ensemble.

Isaburoh Hanayagi, nihon buyo and taiko instructor at Tamagawa University of Machida, Japan, has served as instructor and mentor for the group from the beginning, teaching the repertory class several pieces between 2000 and 2002, as well as instructing SCT members Alex Hudson and Joseph Small when they came to study at Tamagawa in the fall of 2003.

Kenny and Chizuko Endo and the Taiko Center of the Pacific are also a major source of instruction and encouragement. Professor Arrow and several members of the ensemble have studied under Kenny Endo, at the Taiko Center of the Pacific (2002 and 2003) and at the 2002 Summer Taiko Institute.

Most recently, leading members Alex Hudson and Joseph Small spent the summer of 2004 working with and learning from Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, Franco Imperial, Wisa Uemura, and the rest of San Jose Taiko, who have provided invaluable teaching, encouragement, and inspiration.

Members of SCT have also studied with Taikoz in Australia, Kiyonari Tosha-sensei of Nihon Taiko Dojo, Portland Taiko, and members and apprentices of KODO. Instructors that have given workshops at Swarthmore College include Isaburoh Hanayagi, Kenny Endo, San Jose Taiko, John Ko of Soh Daiko, and Bryan Yamami of taikoproject.

Non-Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of non-taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Swarthmore College Taiko has collaborated with several musicians in the Swarthmore and the Philadelphia Community:

Nap of the Earth (2004-5): Collaboration with Lenny Seidman, tabla drummer of Spoken Hand Percussion Ensemble.
Gbe Gbe (2004): Collaboration with Tara Tucker, african drummer.
Haitian (2004): Collaboration with Lenny Seidman.
Fusion (2003): Collaboration with Charles Abacus, african drumming instructor at Swarthmore College.

Musical & Performance Styles
Describe the ensemble's musical and performance styles.

Swarthmore College Taiko's performance technique is largely derived from its most formative influences, those of Isaburoh Hanayagi and Kenny Endo. There is also emphasis given to exploration of dance and movement within taiko, as influenced by Professor Arrow.

Signature Works
Please include title, composer, date of composition, special reason(s) for composition, and what the work represents to the group.

Shin-Tamagawa Daiko (1980, arr. 2003)
This piece was written by members of the Tamagawa University Men's Taiko Ensemble, and has been rearranged several times to reflect the new spirit of the group. It was first taught to Swarthmore College students by Isaburoh Hanayagi in 2001, and was further refined by Alex Hudson and Joseph Small after their return from study at Tamagawa University in 2004. It has come to signify both the history of SCT and the bond between Tamagawa and Swarthmore.

Goshinji (traditional, arr. 2001)
This piece is traditional to the Ishikawa Prefecture, as an invocation to cast out the negative aspects of humanity with a divine prayer for rain. It was one of the first pieces taught to Swarthmore College Taiko by Isaburoh Hanayagi.

Nanatsu no Akai Fuusen (Sarah Gladwin, 2002)
Dekiru Taiko (Joseph Small w/ Alex Hudson, 2002)
These two pieces are the first original works composed and performed by members of Swarthmore College Taiko. They are no longer in the repertoire, but represent an important milestone for Swarthmore College Taiko.

Miyake Daiko (traditional, arr. 2004-05 by Alex Hudson and Joseph Small)
This piece originates with the forest workers of Miyake Island, off the eastern coast of Japan. It has been popularized by groups such as KODO, who taught the basic patterns to members of SCT in 2003.


Professor Kim Arrow
500 College Ave, Swarthmore PA 19081


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