Mu Daiko

Mu Daiko

St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

Founded 1997

Basic Information

    Mu Performing Arts

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

Mu Performing Arts Mission Statement: To be a premier artistic company that creates theater and taiko from the heart of the Asian American experience.

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

Mu Daiko and Theater Mu operate under the wing of Mu Performing Arts led by Artistic Director Rick Shiomi. Decisions regarding Mu Daiko are made by the Artistic Director with input from the senior performing members. Prospective members are identified and recruited primarily from Mu's ongoing taiko classes and are invited to become interns. They participate in intern classes, outreach and mainstage performances and become full Mu Daiko members at the discretion of the Artistic Director.

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

Rick Shiomi is the Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts consisting of Theater Mu, the Asian American theater company and Mu Daiko. As a taiko performer, he began his career in the late 1970s with Katari Taiko in Vancouver. In the early 1980s he studied and performed with the San Francisco Taiko Dojo under Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka. He also performed with Soh Daiko of New York and Wasabi Daiko of Toronto. As a theater artist, he has written and directed many plays, including Yellow Fever and Mask Dance and is considered one of the leading figures of Asian American theater.

Shiomi played taiko as part of the inauguration of Theater Mu's new studio space in 1997. The actors who saw him perform persuaded him to teach a taiko class leading to the first student presentations and the formation of Mu Daiko in the spring of that year. Mu Daiko currently presents an annual concert series featuring original compositions and guest artist groups including the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble, San Francisco Taiko Dojo and the On Ensemble. Most recently, the 2004 Taiko Blizzard concerts with Fubuki Daiko of Winnipeg, Canada, drew sold-out audiences. Both Theater Mu and Mu Daiko now operate under the umbrella of the newly formed Mu Performing Arts (2004). Mu Daiko continues to have an extensive outreach performance schedule in addition to reaching hundreds of taiko enthusiasts through its ongoing taiko classes and elementary, secondary and college-level workshops and residencies.

List of Founding Members
















List of Current Members

Mu Daiko Core Members

Jeff Ellsworth

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

Members represent many different ethnicities and varied musical backgrounds.

Motivations for playing: Share love of/passion for taiko with different audiences; connections with Japanese and Japanese American backgrounds/community; connection with Asian community

Description of the group's community - regional, ethnic, social, etc.

Mu Daiko is an active particpant in the rich ethnic, cultural and artistic fabrics of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the greater metropolitan area. Mu Daiko also has a very strong presence (workshops, residencies, performances) in outstate Minnesota and the upper Midwest, with growing recognition beyond the region.

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.)

The Southern Theater Performing Arts Series
Como Park Lantern Lighting Festival
Fesitvals, non-profit and for profit events, conferences, conventions, openings

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

Kenny Endo
On Ensemble (Masato Baba, Kris Bergstrom, Michelle Fujii, Shoji Kameda)
Fubuki Daiko (Naomi Guilbert, Hiroshi Koshiyama)
1999/2001/2003/2005 Taiko Conference Workshop leaders

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

Mu Daiko has shared the stage with the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble, San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Fubuki Daiko and the On Ensemble during its yearly mainstage concerts.

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

Theater Mu
Ragamala Music and Dance Theater
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Chamber Music Society of Minnesota and Zhou Long, Composer
St. Paul Civic Symphony

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

Mu Daiko's style has been influenced not only by Rick Shiomi's study with Seiichi Tanaka and various taiko ensembles in the U.S. and Canada, but also by his theatrical background and his work with Korean Mask Dance.


Iris Shiraishi
355 Wabasha St N, Ste 140


Taiko Blizzard (2004). Photo by Charissa Uemura. Taiko Blizzard (2004). Photo by Charissa Uemura.



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A project of the Japanese American National Museum

Major support by The Nippon Foundation