Workshop Leaders


Bryan Yamami spearheaded the creative development of the ground-breaking taiko theatrical production, TAIKOPROJECT: (re)generation from 2000 - 2004. Bryan served as creative taiko lead for the acclaimed 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial, the movies "RedBelt" and "Tekken," for TP's recording sessions for Kanye West and Nike, the 2009 Academy Awards, and the 2011 Grammy Awards. He has performed with John Legend, A.R. Rahman, DJ Tiesto, rapper Xzibit, rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, pop legend Stevie Wonder, Usher, and Justin Bieber.

Seattle-based composer Byron Au Yong has worked with taiko musicians in Japan and North America. His works have been performed and recorded by Kaho Tosha, Ōn Ensemble, Portland Taiko and TAIKOPROJECT. In addition, his music has been featured in theaters, concert halls, festivals and museums that include On the Boards, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, Jeonju Sanjo Festival and Tokyo Art Museum.

Au Yong is the recipient of numerous honors that include a Creative Capital Award, Ford Foundation Fellowship and Meet the Composer Award. Internationally, he has received support from Aldeburgh Music in the UK, the Dragon Foundation in Hong Kong, the Darmstadt Institute in Germany, and Foundation Gaudeamus in Holland. Au Yong has been composer-in-residence at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab (2011), Yale Institute for Music Theatre (2010), Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU (2009-2010) and Portland Taiko (2007).

Active as a teacher, he has taught Listening to Music, Music for Dancers and Rhythmic Fundamentals at Cornish College of the Arts. He holds an MFA from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, an MA from the Department of World Arts & Cultures at UCLA and a BA/BM from the School of Music at the University of Washington. Recordings of his music are available on New World Records, Periplum and other indie labels.

Eien Hunter-Ishikawa is a versatile drummer, percussionist, and taiko player with a multifaceted musical background. Born in Japan, his passion for drumming started at an early age through the involvement of a youth taiko ensemble directed by Yutaka Ishizuka, a founding member of the greatly influential taiko ensemble Sukeroku Daiko. He earned his Bachelor of Music Education at Central Michigan University, where he performed, recorded, and toured as a member of the Robert Hohner Percussion Ensemble under the direction of the late Robert Hohner, and his Master of Music at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During his time in Honolulu, Eien performed and toured extensively as a member of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble throughout the United States and Europe and taught classes at the Taiko Center of the Pacific, a school of traditional and contemporary taiko. Currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia, he has toured internationally with Uzume Taiko and has performed with electro- acoustic groups Isshin Denshin Atmospheric Ensemble, Haagen & Ryuzen, interdisciplinary dancer/actor/choreographer Colleen Lanki, Michael O'Neill's bagpipe ensemble Mearingstone, Vancouverʼs Silk Road Music, shakuhachi artist Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos, and the African band Kow Kanda. Eien has performed at Vancouver’s Powell Street Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Hawaii International Taiko Festival, Honolulu International Jazz Festival, and the Detroit Montreux Jazz Festival. A very active instructor of percussion and taiko, he has presented workshops at the North American Taiko Conference and the Pacific Northwest Regional Taiko Gathering and continues to conduct workshops and teach private lessons for various ensembles and players of all ages and levels.

Maze Daiko

Elaine N. Fong is the founder and former artistic Director of Odaiko New England (, the first professional taiko group in Massachusetts. Previously, she was a member of the New York City based group, Soh Daiko. She is currently a member of the East Bay group, Maze Daiko. She has over 25 years of taiko performance, teaching and administrative experience. Ms. Fong has taught taiko and rhythm workshops and classes throughout the New England area. In addition to taiko, Ms. Fong has over ten years of dance training, and is a certified taketina rhythm teacher (, advanced level. Ms. Fong’s taiko compositions have included taiko-theater, spoken word, and cross cultural collaborations with capoeiristas. She has composed musical works for choreographers, for theater companies and for film. Ms, Fong teaches taiko and taketina workshops on both the East and West Coasts.

San Jose Taiko

Franco is the incoming Artistic Director for San Jose Taiko. He has been with SJT since 1998, full time artistic staff member since 2001. Franco has been a prolific composer, teacher, and director for the company. Having studied extensively under San Jose Taiko pioneers Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, Franco also brings previous years of experience as a musician with Brazilian Samba, American Rock, and Filipino Kulintang. His work includes leading several musical/educational/community collaborations with artists such as 5-time Grammy Award-nominee John Santos, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow Danongan Kalanduyan, The Bangerz (DJ crew for JABBAWOCKEEZ), Abhinaya Dance Company, Dan Sabanovich, Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, Tule Lake Pilgrimage Committee, and Japantown Business Association.

Kinnara Taiko

George Tetsuo Abe was born in Manzanar California, raised in the Seinan area (Westside, L.A.). Began with clarinet in elementary school and went on to play oboe and sax at Manual Arts H.S. He graduated with a BA in Psychology, CSULA. He now specializes in Japanese musical instruments: shakuhachi, yokobue, taiko and biwa. Some of his music can be heard in KARATE KID II and in numerous productions at East West Players (OMEN; ...AND THE SOUL SHALL DANCE; PACIFIC OVERTURES).

As a founding member of Kinnara Taiko he has performed and led workshops and classes throughout Southern California and in various cities throughout the U.S. He has been a workshop leader every year at Tasiko Conference, going back to the very first one.

As a member of Japanese Festival Sounds (on the rosters of Music Center on Tour and From the Center) he has presented assemblies in schools throughout Southern California for over 15 years. He also is an Artist in Residence at Metropolitan State Hospital, providing drumming workshops for clients and staff for the last 10 years.


Isaku Kageyama -

Isaku is one of the premiere taiko drummers of his generation, performing and teaching taiko around the world. For the past 5 years, Isaku has worked as one of the principal drummers of Tokyo-based taiko ensemble, Amanojaku.

His distinct sound adds elements from a wide variety of music genres such as rock, jazz, electronic, Latin, and African, to produce a powerful groove that goes far beyond traditional taiko.

Isaku has collaborated with jazz trumpeters Terumasa Hino, Toshinori Kondo, saxophonist Kazutoki Umezu, fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, among others.

He is also a two-time National Odaiko (large drum) Champion, becoming the youngest person to win highest honors the Mt. Fuji Odaiko Contest in 2000, and Hokkaido in 2003. Isaku has appeared in television commercials and events for brands such as Toyota, Boeing, Japan Postal Service, Aioi Sonpo and Shin Nihon Tatemono.

A powerful musician and icon of traditional Japanese culture, Isaku is one of the taiko drummers who will carry the art into the 21st century.

Maze Daiko

Janet is the Artistic Director of Maze Daiko. The group is known as a pioneer of a unique style, mixing (maze) global instrumentation and grooves with the physical elegance of taiko. Last year Maze presented a concert with Kodo vocalist Yoko Fujimoto, and in 2011 will collaborate with Kodo dancer Chieko Kojima and former Kodo fue player, Kaoru Watanabe. Maze also works with First Voice (Mark Izu and Brenda Wong Aoki) creating works like “the Legend of Morning Glory” combining performance art, jazz, taiko.

Janet began her taiko training with San Francisco Taiko Dojo. After touring Indonesia with Keith Terry’s “Body Tjak,” she returned to the US to complete her training with San Jose Taiko. As part of SJT’s Artistic Staff, Janet contributed songs to their repertoire, and created a school program presented in over 75 schools. She continues to compose songs, which are part of Emeryville Taiko, Moab Taiko and Odaiko New England’s repertoire.

As a solo taiko artist, Janet has performed, with the Mark Izu ensemble in venues from Yoshi’s San Francisco, to Hong Kong at the "New Dimensions Festival". She has performed with Anthony Brown’s Asian Jazz Orchestra, Theatre Yugen, and d'Cuckoo at Cleveland’s bicentennial
and conducted workshops for the Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival, and Born to Drum camps.

As Artistic Director of the non-profit organization Rhythmix Cultural Works (RCW), Janet organized tours to Cuba to study folkloric music and dance, and pioneered a trip to Sado Island to study at the Kodo apprentice center. In June 2007 she opened the doors to RCW’s community arts space in Alameda with performance space, gallery and classroom. Over the last 3.5 years over 20,000 people have come together at RCW through culture and the arts."

Shasta Taiko

Jeanne Mercer is an honored and highly respected American taiko artist and pioneer.
She founded Shasta Taiko in 1985 with Russel Baba and has dedicated her life to the teaching of the art, discipline, and philosophy of taiko.

Mercer started taiko training with Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka in 1972 and toured the world performing with San Francisco Taiko Dojo for over 10 years. Jeanne has also collaborated with American taiko artists Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, Kenny Endo, San Jose Taiko, Portland Taiko, Russel Baba, Masato Baba, Shoji Kameda, Michelle Fujii, and Toru Watanabe.

Jeanne Mercer has carried her taiko expertise over to the modern drum set, performing on traps and taiko at various jazz venues with Russel and other jazz musicians such as drummers Art Blakey and Eddie Moore, violinist Michael White, and pianist Andrew Hill.

Jeanne is featured in recordings – “Hisashi” (1978), “Spirit Drum” (1999), “Tadaima” and “Korewa Korewa,” and on soundtracks – “Apocalypse Now” and “Return of the Jedi.”

Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center

KAORU WATANABE is a practitioner of various Japanese traverse bamboo flutes, the taiko drum as well as Western flute.  His music can be best described as an ever shifting blend of the folk and classical traditions of Japan with contemporary improvisational and experimental music.

A graduate from the Manhattan School of Music with a BFA in jazz flute and saxophone performance, Kaoru moved to Japan in 1997 and joined Kodo as drummer, dancer, singer, composer and fue soloist. From 2005 to 2007, Kaoru served as one of Kodo's artistic directors, focussing on their world music festival Earth Celebration.

In late 2006 Kaoru left Kodo and returned to NY to teach and continue performing fue, western flute and taiko in a variety of musical and artistic settings.  Recent projects have taken him across the US, Canada, Japan, Mongolia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad and Honduras. Recent performances have included collaborations with Kenny Endo, Kiyohiko Semba, Kaneko Ryutaro, Kakinuma Koji, On Ensemble, Adam Rudolph, Tamango, Hassan Hakmoun and others.

Fue players that have directly influenced Kaoru through lessons and collaboration include Tosha Meisho, Isso Yukihiro, Matsuda Hiroyuki and Suzuki Kyosuke. Kaoru is sponsored by the fue maker Ranjo.

Kaoru has been a resident instructor at Princeton University, Colby College and Wesleyan University as well as teaching at his own taiko school in Brooklyn.