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Columbus International Festival

UA Taiko drummers ready for performance

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Barrington Elementary School Taiko Club members (from left) Xander Munc, Graham Hall and Jack Kamerer, concentrate as they practice drum routines with other members of the club, which will perform Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Columbus International Festival.
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The energetic beat of drums echoed through Barrington Elementary School's halls as Taiko Club members practiced Ikari No Kaminari or Rage of Thunder.

Taiko is a Japanese word for "great drum," music teacher Debbie Gibson said.

Gibson's students will perform at the Columbus International Festival at 2:20 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 300 W. Broad St., Columbus.

The Columbus International Festival is a two-day event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 3 and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 4. It offers international cuisine, live entertainment, a cultural marketplace, a parade of nations and the Columbus International 5K run/walk set the morning of Nov. 4.

Gibson said the Barrington Taiko Club will perform Ikari No Kaminari at the festival, along with students singing Maples, a traditional Japanese song about autumn.

She said about 40 students in third through fifth grades are in the club, which meets after school on Wednesdays.

"We are a new group and, as other groups have done, we play our Taiko music on five-gallon buckets with homemade bachi drumsticks," she said. "We are in the process of seeking funding to help purchase authentic Taiko drums and equipment for the children to play, which will be necessary for our group to play more music and learn as much as possible within this experience.

"The children are very eager to play 'real drums', " he said.

Gibson said she had been interested in Taiko for quite awhile, both as a percussive art and for the cultural connection. She said Susann Barrett, the Dublin Taiko Group director, is a friend, as is Eric Paton, a Taiko master and percussion professor at Capital University.

"In 2010, I had begun seriously to think about starting a Taiko club at Barrington and was trying to figure out a way to find start-up money," she said. "In March of 2011, Japan suffered the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami. As that horrible event was reported on the news, our children would come to school sad and moved by what they had heard and seen at home."

Gibson said her students' sense of "cultural disconnect" seemed to make their sadness worse. She found the means to bring some Japanese culture into her classroom after she was awarded the 2011 Columbus Symphony Elementary Music Educator Award.

"The award brought a generous stipend, enough to pay for Eric Paton to be an artist-in-residence for the 2011-12 school year," she said. "Through this, all of the children in grades one through five got to experience Taiko during their music classes."

She and Angi Brooks, the other music specialist at Barrington, invited third-graders to work with Paton at lunchtime to polish a piece of music to public performance level.

The group performed at the 2012 Dublin Taiko Gala, playing its piece in a sold-out concert. Participants also met Eitetsu Hayashi, an international Taiko master from Japan.

Playing Taiko music is a way to honor and respect Japanese culture, Gibson said.

"We use a few Japanese words in our music and make sure that our playing positions and the music itself are authentic," she said. "All of the music is memorized, which means the children use multiple cognitive skills along with multifaceted learning strategies just to learn and play together.

"There is nothing like this in our American musical heritage, so it gives the children a global perspective, helping them to think about what children in Japan might be doing," she said. "It helps them to see the similarities as well as the more obvious differences."

Gibson said she loves seeing "huge smiles of pride on children's faces."

The children also had a few things to say about Taiko.

"I just like to bang on things," fifth-grader Peter Johanni said. "I like the rhythm in it and I liked the warrior part of it. I like how the rhythm gets in your head and you just can't stop thinking of it."

"It's cool because you get to play an instrument and that's what I love," fourth-grader Aidan Vanek said.

Natalie Parsons, also a fourth-grader, said Taiko is fun "and you get to learn new things."

Connor Hanks, also in fourth grade, said, "It's interesting because of the history of Taiko."

Jack Sugar, a fourth-grader, said Taiko is "awesome, because it's got rhythm when you hear the beat of the drum."

Another fourth-grader, Ella Hazelbaker, said, "I like the sound of the drums."

Gibson said the Barrington Taiko Club is unique in Upper Arlington and is one of only a few such groups in Ohio.

 

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