NATC’s Importance: As told by Workshop Leaders

PJ Hirabayashi leads a workshop at the 2015 NATC in Las Vegas, NV.

Workshops dominate many participants’ time at the North American Taiko Conference. Out of the 25.5 hours of activities currently scheduled for this summer’s gathering at the University of California San Diego, 12.5 hours (49%) are workshops! Of course, participants at past conferences have listed the workshops as one of the major reasons for attending, so it is time well spent in the eyes of many.

However, NATC is not only for the workshop attendees. Workshops leaders are just as excited to attend the conference as those who are participating in their workshops. There have been 99 different workshop leaders over the history of NATC, but only a handful of these insructors have taught at all nine conferences. This includes PJ Hirabayashi, founding member of San Jose Taiko and creator of TaikoPeace, and Kenny Endo, founder of the Taiko Center of the Pacific and the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble. Since 1997, PJ and Kenny have taught a wide variety of workshops at NATC, from ō-daiko and taiko set to dance and choreography. They are some of the most popular and well-attended workshops at every conference, helping everyone to grow as musicians and performers.

PJ and Kenny’s passion for taiko performance comes through in their workshops, which are also fueled by their feelings about NATC. Both describe the excitement they felt when attending the first conference in 1997. PJ reminisces that the event was full of anxious energy, but out of everyone’s participants came a “collective shared energy and passion.” Looking back at that first gathering in Los Angeles, both Kenny and PJ feel that the event was what Kenny calls a “great step forward for the North American Taiko community.”

Kenny Endo leads a set workshop at NATC 2015 in Las Vegas, NV

As they have continued to teach at each NATC, both leaders remain excited about the event. PJ notes that it has even helped her to become a better teacher, stating that she has become “more mindful of [her] teaching methods in HOW [they] embody and convey the ingredients of essence/spirit, humility, respect, and equity wrapped within the materials [she] gives away to the participants.” Even as there have emerged many other regional conferences, NATC remains unique. Kenny notes that there is “more of a variety of workshop leaders and [the] marketplace is larger,” while beyond the workshops “the Taiko Jam and Taiko Ten concerts provide a good showcase for taiko players and a chance to see performances from many groups.” PJ also feels that NATC is unique, stating that “the enthusiasm to learn and network seems to be more dynamic and intense.”

Even with all these offerings, in the end it is the sense of the community that sets NATC apart. When asked about the importance of NATC, Kenny replied that it’s a great place to “get to meet new people and hang with long time friends.” PJ describes NATC as a place where we can “expand our awareness that we are a huge and diverse community and STILL growing.” She continues:

“NATC has been an important source for community building for the taiko community and encourages ALL to be vigilant and to step up and share the responsibility to transmit values, principles, history/roots, and to celebrate our interconnection with each other. This is NATC’s legacy.”

Throughout the month of April, we will be adding to the #20YearstoNATC Timeline by bringing you perspectives of NATC’s significance from various factions of the taiko community.  Don’t miss out on NATC 17!


Special Thanks: Kenny Endo and PJ Hirabayashi. Written by: Ben Pachter, TCA Program Committee. Edited by: Elise Fujimoto, TCA Communications Committee.