Karen Young In her decades-long work as a cultural organizer and social practice artist Karen inspires real connection. Her personal story of disenfranchisement compelled her to find her own voice and use it to help others find theirs. Influenced by Japanese-American taiko activists of the 60s, Karen is most interested in using taiko as well as organizing strategies to empower, engage, and inspire people into action. Karen is the Founding Director of The Genki Spark, 2018 Boston Artist in Residence, and has been instrumental in launching womenandtaiko.org, an initiative to increase the visibility of women in the art form. Karen leads taiko workshops and discussions throughout North America and Europe, and has been part of the North American Taiko Community since 1997.
Michelle Fujii, taiko artist and Co-director of Unit Souzou, creates contemporary work as a fourth generation Japanese-American through the art forms of taiko and Japanese folk dance, contextualizing cultural art within the present. After graduating from UCLA in ethnomusicology, she was awarded a Bunkacho fellowship from the Japanese government to study with Japan’s foremost traditional folk dance troupe, Warabi-za. Michelle has worked with numerous North American and international taiko groups. In Portland, she serves on the resource council for New Expressive Works and is an active teaching artist with The Right Brain Initiative and Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington.
Linda Uyehara Hoffman A founding member of Katari Taiko, the first taiko group in Canada, and Sawagi Taiko, the first all-women’s taiko group in Canada, Linda Uyehara Hoffman has been playing taiko for over 30 years. She performed in the Women in View production of Lear with three other taiko players, for which they received a Jessie nomination in Sound Design. She drummed and sang at the aboriginal Talking Stick Festival in a collaborative improvisation with singer/percussionists from different cultures (First Nations, Ukrainian, South Asian, Korean and Japanese) organized by Russell Wallace, Lilwat singer, drummer and dancer. Uyehara Hoffman has given vocal workshops covering speaking, singing and vocal improvisation at national and regional taiko conferences.
Sarah Ayako is a stage manager and tour manager who specializes in working with taiko groups. She has worked with both Japanese and US-based groups as well as many other artistic ensembles. She has also organized a great variety of events, including the TaikoBaka Leadership Conference (March, 2016) and the Summer Taiko Institute, Women and Taiko: Past, Present, and Future (August, 2017). She also likes beer and makes it a point to map out breweries along her tour route.