By Catherine Cat Heron Steele and Claudia Kelly
We both love coming to Grey Bears in Santa Cruz and supporting the senior community with Watsonville Taiko’s workshops and classes. Grey Bears is such a convenient location in the middle of the county and within a block from a bus stop, which makes it easy if you support public transportation. The location is also away from residential areas so our sound when we drum isn’t disturbing residents in a neighborhood.
Our head sensei at Grey Bears, Ikuyo Conant, has been teaching taiko in the community for years. I saw Watsonville Taiko perform at their Japanese Cultural Fair 20 plus years ago and wanted my children to drum at the time. That never happened but one of the members encouraged me to take a class. I am so happy I finally did!
Taiko drumming is considered a martial art. With the deep breathing and focus on our form we are waking up core muscles, which is so important for your health. And the community of seniors which have joined since we have been drumming just continues to grow. There is such a joyful vibration when we are all drumming together and making music.
Ikuyo meets everyone who comes through the door with a sense of appreciation and adapts the classes to the participants. Ikuyo is always so attentive to each individual and the needs and challenges that are brought to each class. We are always working with rhythm and we can be drumming or using bells, and of course clapping and dancing to learn the beat; and we also sing along to memorize the music we are learning.
Neither one of us had a sense or clue that we would be participating in a performance when we started drumming. But this spring we both participated to represent the senior class in Watsonville Taiko’s 27th anniversary performance at Cabrillo College Theatre. We practiced for weeks preparing for the concert; memorizing our music and learning how to move drums on and off stage theatrically and helping out in all areas of the performance. It was so exciting to see the professionalism of this performance and the excitement of the community that came to watch. There were taiko drummers on stage from ages 3 1/2 — 78.
We are both grateful that we have the gift of Watsonville Taiko’s drumming in Santa Cruz so that we all can participate. Watsonville Taiko is out in the community drumming all year round at events that bring so much happiness to everyone that gets the opportunity to watch them perform. And it appears that this drumming is excellent for your health and keeps you young at heart!