The seeds for Stanford Taiko were planted in 1991 in a class taught by Susan Hayase, a former member of San Jose Taiko, as part of a special program of Stanford Workshops on Political and Social Issues (SWOPSI). The class contextualized the art of taiko by discussing its link to the Japanese American experience and inspired Ann Ishimaru ('93, A.M. '94) and Valerie Mih ('92) to apply for an Undergraduate Research Opportunity grant to research and build a taiko. Stanford Taiko took root in the winter of 1992 after Ishimaru, Mih, and fellow students completed the first drum and invited fellow SWOPSI course graduates and other interested people to form a taiko ensemble at Stanford University. The original 13 charter members were taught basic taiko form in a workshop with San Jose Taiko. They also learned basics from workshops with Susan Hayase, Gary Tsujimoto, and Nancy Ozaki from One World Taiko.
Since that time Stanford Taiko has grown to an ensemble of approximately 20 students with an all-original repertoire and the sponsorship of the Stanford Department of Music. Members are selected through a rigorous one-month audition process that commences at the beginning of each academic year. The group performs regularly at major university events (Baccalaureate, Admit Weekend, New Student Orientation), and has gained international recognition through its program of regular touring. Stanford Taiko's tours have taken it to Japan (2000, 2006), China (2008), the UK (2012), Thailand (2004, 2006, 2009, 2013), Guatemala (2015), and numerous destinations in the U.S.
Always searching for opportunities to increase the ensemble's artistry, Stanford Taiko has studied in master class and workshop settings with leading taiko artists and groups, including Eitetsu Hayashi, Kiyonari Tosha, Kenny Endo, Kodo, and Drum Tao. The group has also premiered works for orchestra taiko ensemble and chorus by leading composers Zhou Long, and Melissa Hui, and for taiko ensemble and chorus by Takeo Kudo, and Grammy Award winning composer Christopher Tin. Stanford Taiko remains the only collegiate taiko group that has ever been invited to perform at Taiko Jam, the premiere concert of the biennial North American Taiko Conference, and has performed at prestigious venues including the UK Taiko Festival, the Thai National Theatre, the Great Wall of China, the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, and Seattle's Benaroya Hall.
Stanford Taiko members work during the academic year to maintain a rigorous schedule of practices and performances, maintain and build their own equipment, and design and sew their costumes. Stanford Taiko also contributes to the Department of Music's academic curriculum through its support of Stanford's research seminar Perspectives in North American Taiko (MUSIC 17Q).
Finally, Stanford Taiko remains true to the goals of its original charter to (i) present taiko to the Stanford community, and (ii) to educate the community about taiko. In addition to performances, the group holds regular workshops for community members and participates annually in the Intercollegiate Taiko Invitational, founded by Stanford Taiko in 1995.
Many Stanford Taiko members have gone on to perform with or form other professional taiko groups, including San Jose Taiko, Jun Daiko, On Ensemble, and Portland Taiko. Though the faces of Stanford Taiko change with the regularity of the four-year collegiate cycle, the energy of the organization remains forward-moving as we work to keep the taiko spirit strong and steady in the Stanford community and share our music, our energy, and our art with all those who will be drawn in.