There’s a yellow suitcase marked ‘YA’ in the equipment closet. During our practices, we regularly borrow equipment from the suitcase. But more often, the yellow suitcase tags along as we help load equipment into and out of Juni‘s car before and after practices.
‘YA’ stands for ‘Young Audiences of Massachusetts’. It also represents a major part of Odaiko New England’s mission – to teach the art and culture of taiko drumming to children. Through Young Audiences, ONE performs at many schools throughout the region. In addition, many schools/groups book workshops directly from ONE for more hands-on lessons.
This spring, I had the opportunity to assist Juni while she visited at two local elementary schools. While we taught workshops to the 2nd graders at both schools, the second school included the YA performance. The performance was lots of fun, especially since I got to play the role of the Rain God which involved a Japanese mask and a squirt gun.
For these schools, ONE’s visit enriched their lessons about Japan. During each workshop, the kids learned more about the art form and equipment, then got an opportunity to drum. They even got a chance to learn a song. The kids had great fun banging on the big drums. My most touching moment came as I watched one student help a fellow student with special needs experience drumming. The sheer joy it brought to both kids was really fantastic to see.
The school visits have brought new meaning to my own taiko experience. I look forward to following the yellow suitcase on its future journeys.