Taiko drumming

A school-wide performance at Central School featured taiko drumming.

The Rick Marcotte Central School PTO brought a taiko drumming residency to students, kindergarten through fifth grade, for a powerful learning experience. The residency began with an introduction to taiko drumming and Japanese folk dance through an energetic and engaging performance by Burlington Taiko. Students saw different variations of drumming pieces and, for good luck, even got bit by the lion during the “Shi Shi Mai” (Lion Dance). After the performance, Central School students and teachers began a two-week residency with Stuart Paton, an instructor with Burlington Taiko.

Students received 30-minutes of instruction each day. After introducing himself as Paton Sensei, he learned each student’s name, repeating each one in formal Japanese at the outset of each lesson. Students responded enthusiastically and with anticipation to Sensei Paton’s lessons and teaching strategies, which included vocalizing while encouraging students to reach their arms as high as they could, bringing the drum stick up and then down on the drum. In addition to learning about Japanese language, Sensei Paton shared stories and information about Japanese culture and food.

The students put together one drumming piece with their group, learning the “Tankoh Bushi” (Coal Mining Dance). Another song the budding drummers learned was “Hiryo Sandan Gaeshi” (The Dragon God Descends Three Times).

“The purpose of our work in schools is to allow children in North America to further their appreciation for diverse cultures, and to see first-hand, role models of adults expressing powerful, even fierce, creative energy in avenues that benefit the community,” said Paton. “Taiko is just spectacular,” he said. “The rhythms, the dancing, the brilliant colors are all especially engaging and compelling for children and young adults. We hope our work can inspire them to find constructive, creative outlets for their abundant energy and to do it with the dedication and joy we bring to our own discipline.”

March 29 saw the culmination of the residency when students, staff, and families gathered in the South Burlington High School gymnasium. Each group performed their drumming piece for families in attendance. The event ended with a school-wide performance of “Tankoh Bushi.” It was a vibrant learning experience, creating community through the arts.

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