Taiko Drumming

In second grade Kenwood students have been studying the art of Taiko drumming. In a two month long residency, funded by the Kenwood PTA, all students in the second and third grade have ten sessions in basic taiko forms and rhythms.The taiko residency concludes with performances for families and students.

As an art form taiko drumming has only been around since the 1950’s but taiko drums have been used in the Japanese culture for many centuries. The focus, concentration and strength used when playing taiko drums creates a meditative state that clears the mind and releases stress. It is a complete mind-body experience and, undoubtedly, one of the reasons it is a favorite experience for Kenwood kids and families.

The Story of the Taiko Drums demonstrates the ingenuity, commitment and hard work that have kept the arts in the forefront at Kenwood. Keeping in mind that a typical Taiko drum and stand costs at least $400 dollars, this is what alumni second grade teacher, Mr. Kohanek, was able to do to make sure Kenwood students could learn the art of Taiko.

At first Mr. Kohanek scrounged around the alleys behind tire shops looking for 25 used tires in good enough shape to turn into Taiko drums. Once enough drums were found they were washed in the boiler room at school until Mr. Kohanek had the idea to bring them to a do-it-yourself car wash. After the tires were washed and dried students applied three layers of packing tape to each drum. Although the tires produced a good “Don” they did not have the necessary rim for a good sounding “Ka-ta”. Over the years a variety of things were attached to the drums to produce the “ka-ta" sound all less than satisfactory.

It was at this point that the fire marshals stepped in and put a swift halt to keeping tires in a school even if they were musical instruments to us!

After a little research by Mr. Kohanek and Sara, the Taiko instructor, Mr. Kohanek purchased 22-foot lengths of 18-inch diameter culvert at Menards and used a reciprocating saw to cut them into 36 drums. This material gave the drums a great rim for “ka-ta”. He then angled the edges, gave them several coats of brown paint and brought them back to school. Tyvek mailing envelopes and several layers of packing tape were used to create the drumhead. Four holes were drilled into each drum so it could be secured to a folding chair. The bachi were made from 48-inch Brazilian hardwood dowels cut into 16-inch lengths, which were then sanded and coated with polyurethane.