Pardon my sentimental blubbering. A few days ago in a shinnenkai celebration, with cheers, laughter and more than a few damp eyes, we welcomed two new members to Odaiko New England: Greg and Shane. It was with enormous pride in their efforts, accomplishments and promise that we bestowed on them in our welcome ceremony the rare and esteemed Purple T-Shirt of Membership. This was a huge step for us, because they are the first new folks to join since our Community Group was formed. Two years ago, in a leap of courage and faith, five ONE members invited in fifteen additional enthusiastic and dedicated taiko lovers, and the Community Group became a reality. Suddenly ONE quadrupled in size from an intimate group of five, to an intimate group of twenty. It was a new model for everyone.
This huge and sudden growth has been a challenge: logistically, emotionally, and professionally. How to provide equipment for so many people? How to make group decisions? Train and rehearse so many different skill levels? Distribute performance opportunities fairly? Together (and with the wise guidance of the Fabulous Five original ensemble members), we did it! Sixteen years after our founder Elaine Fong began banging on old tires, we are growing and flourishing. We finally have a real office! Paid staff! Costumes that fit (mostly)! For sure, our equipment could use some upgrading (I speak lovingly of drums such as Mr. Jingles, Harry the Hiccupping Hira, Helen the Holey, and Thumper the shime). But that, too, will surely come to pass.
The admission of our first “new” new members Shane and Greg has led us to think about who we are, what we do, and where we want to go. Some foregone conclusions: (1) we love taiko and want to share our passion; (2) we don’t just want to drum: we want to drum together; (3) we are a family: we share each others’ joys and sorrows, watch each others’ backs, nurture each other as we can, and rejoice in our “in-laws” (partners, families and pets). So welcome, Shane and Greg, to the joyous, passionate and diverse taiko family that is Odaiko New England.