The Dublin Taiko program began with 20 Davis Middle School students during the 2004-05 school year.

Fifteen years later, the group has expanded to include more than 100 Dublin City School District students.

Last year's group included 116 students in grades 6-12, representing four schools in the district, said Susann Blair-Ewing, Taiko director.

Taiko, which means "drum," is a ceremonial Japanese drumming style that has recently become popular in North America as well as Europe, Blair-Ewing said.

Dublin Taiko began during the 2004-05 school year. It was part of an artist-driven residency with Taiko Master Eitetsu Hayashi, she said. After the initial 20-student group formed, the students wanted to keep drumming, Blair-Ewing said.

"Their dedication inspired me to continue to teach students and led to the growth the program has seen to this day," she said.

Through participation in the Taiko group, students learn cultural awareness, focus and teamwork, Blair-Ewing said.

No background in Taiko drumming is necessary to participate; Blair-Ewing teaches students the technique as well as choreographed movements.

"Western drumming relies heavily on the wrist, where Taiko uses the entire body to strike the drum," she said.

The Dublin Taiko Group has performances in the community throughout the year and holds an annual Dublin Taiko Gala at one of the three Dublin high schools in the spring, Blair-Ewing said.

The performance features the students along with a guest Taiko group.

Tobin Strohl, president of the Dublin Taiko Boosters, a nonprofit organization that supports the Taiko ensemble, said his son, Jeremy, plays in the Taiko group's most-skilled unit. He said Jeremy has gained an appreciation for the craft as well as a confidence in his own skill.

"It has really helped to also bring out his leadership," Strohl said.

Jeremy, a 17-year-old Scioto senior, joined the Dublin Taiko Group as a seventh-grader after one of the group's concerts in conjunction with Eitetsu Hayashi.

Participation in the art form inspired Jeremy to take Japanese as a language class in high school.

Strohl's younger son, Samuel, will begin Dublin Taiko this school year, as an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Davis Middle School. Strohl said he hopes Samuel, like his older brother, will gain an appreciation for the art form and another culture as well as the ability to learn what one can achieve through hard work and practice.

Another Davis student, Hannah Wiesen, said she was excited to learn Dublin had a Taiko program of its own.

Wiesen, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, joined Dublin Taiko at age 11, and heard about the art form from a cousin who lives on the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

"Something that really caught my attention in Taiko was being able to have the chance to learn about a different culture and see how diverse music can be," Wiesen said.

She said she also wanted to join Dublin's Taiko group to learn another instrument in addition to the violin.

"I would recommend Taiko to someone else because it's a great opportunity to meet some of the greatest Taiko players in the world, and it's definitely a challenge," she said.