Students feel the beat
Marietta youth get to drum with Japanese performers
“At first going up there I didn’t want everybody to see me mess up,” she said. “But then when we all hit the drum at the same time, that went away–I felt strong.”
Campbell, 10, a student at Phillips Elementary, was one of about 600 children to experience a unique cultural exposition within the walls of Peoples Bank Theatre Friday.
She drummed alongside Ondekoza, a Japanese drumming group from the base of Mount Fuji, which has spent the week performing in local schools and will provide the public with a show Saturday.
Third-through fifth-grade students from Marietta City Schools experienced the workshop at the theater Friday, while students of Belpre City Schools, Marietta middle and high schools, St. Mary Catholic School and Veritas Classical Academy each had the opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese drumming, called Taiko, throughout the week, during performances at the schools.
Eyob Geogerian, 10, said drumming on stage with the visiting ensemble was fun, but hard to keep up with.
“I had to hit hard to make it sound loud,” he said after climbing off the stage, a little winded.
Meanwhile, Jaycie Tucker, 10, said she was shocked that the most massive drums were made from tree trunks.
“That’s a really big tree,” she said.
But the common favorite part, for both adults in the room and the children, was moving to one sustained beat.
“It was fun experiencing learning how to keep the strength up and stay with the rhythm,” said Campbell.
“I was kind of emotional when all of the kids in the crowd spontaneously started clapping along with the kids and drummers on stage,” added Hunt Brawley, executive director of the theater.
The program was the last of four sponsored world cultural events provided in partnership with Arts Midwest over the last two years.
“We first had the Chinese group Manhu back in October 2017,” explained Brawley. “Then Unni Boksasp was a Norwegian group that came in April 2018, and in November last year Sofi and the Baladis was an Israeli group that brought Samaritan music which, really, predates ancient Hebrew music. These are all experiences which east and west coast audiences have a better chance logistically at landing than the middle states, and really wouldn’t have been possible for us to model without Arts Midwest.”
Luke Rivard, program associate for international initiatives with Arts Midwest, explained that the nonprofit regional arts organization partners with venues like Peoples Bank Theatre in two-year cycles to provide Midwestern communities with access to programming that exposes other cultures paired with an educational component.
“We hope to spark curiosity,” he explained. “What’s cool about all of these groups we bring in the World Fest program is they are heavily vetted and trained to work with children and explain how they’re continuing these ancient cultural traditions but also evolving them in modern ways. Taiko in the 1960s really took on new meaning in Japan, and the product of that revolution of art and culture is what the children today and the public tomorrow get to experience.”
Third-grade Harmar Elementary teacher Alyson Tornes said she was proud of her students staying engaged and attentive during the performance Friday.
“And we’ll go back and write about what each of them experienced and talk about it, too,” she said.
Ondekoza will perform one final time in Marietta at Peoples Bank Theatre for the public at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets are available through the Peoples Bank Theatre box office and online at peoplesbanktheatre.com.
If you go:
• What: Ondekoza – Japanese Taiko Drummers.
• When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Peoples Bank Theatre.
• Who: Ondekoza are masters of the Japanese traditional taiko and train at the base of Mount Fuji. They have spent the week in Mid-Ohio Valley schools providing workshops on the music and invite the public to experience the art form, courtesy of the Arts Midwest World Fest.
• Cost: $16 for adults, $10 for students and children.
Source: Peoples Bank Theatre.