As the year draws to a close, like many others I am pausing to take a look back to the year and celebrate everything that 2018 brought.
The year began with sadness, as I prepared to make one of many tough decisions of the year. My very best friend in the world was my 14-year-old black lab, Maggie, and her health was failing. My family had to say a tearful goodbye very early in the year. She left a gaping black hole in our hearts.
Our annual vacation in January took us to the beautiful Big Island, where we relaxed and enjoyed a much-needed break. We visited my parents, beach-hopped, snorkelled, ate shave ice, and even sighted a few monk seals! Little did we know that it would be the last time we could visit Kapoho and many other favourite haunts in Puna, which were destroyed in the lava flow later this year.
Family life this year has been busy as well, with the kids growing so fast. Both kids are now addicted to taiko (like their mom), and even Chris has jumped into the taiko world! It means so much to share my passion with those I love so much. Chris went back to school and is now working as a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones. Jon is in Grade 6, playing horn in school band and joined the Cross-Country running team at school. Abby is in Grade 3, forever my little ray of sunshine always with a smile to light up the room. Both are swimming like fish in the pool as well. I am spending my days at the microscope in Cytology, as well as expanding into grossing and histo.
Taiko, of course, has played a huge role in life for 2018. The taiko community at the MRU Conservatory has grown and made me so proud. At the mid-year recital, we welcomed the Lethbridge Community Taiko Association as guest artists, with their leader Marc Vantol. The whole group enjoyed a beautiful day for an outdoor picnic at Sandy Beach after the Year-End Recital. The next recital is only weeks away, and I am so happy with how the community has grown.
The students were busy with performances as well as classes: Mayors Lunch for Arts Champions (youth students), concerts at the Bella Concert Hall with other music ensembles and for the MRU Award Ceremony, collaborating with the Calgary Chinese Orchestra, Opening Ceremonies for the Suzuki Summer Institute, Calgary Omatsuri Japanese Festival, Chinatown Street Festival, Globalfest, International Education Week at MRU and at SAIT, and for the Calgary Foundation Vital City. This foreshadows some exciting announcements for 2019 (stay tuned!).
After ringing in the New Year 2018 in Banff performing with Midnight Taiko, the group's attention turned to our first feature concert production at DJD in downtown Calgary. A difficult project that I enjoyed working with the committee to produce, and the concert was a sellout. During early 2018, I had another tough decision to make: my role with Midnight Taiko. Although I loved being a performer and Artistic Director of the group, I was forced to acknowledge my rising stress levels and only having 24 hours in a day to do far too much work! After the success of the concert, I decided to step down and close Midnight's chapter in my life. It was a wonderful time in my life, and I encourage you to read my previous post Okage sama de. I have great friends that I miss and look forward to more taiko adventures with them!
Taiko took me to LA twice this year. The first trip was in March with Eric and Lisa to study miyake with Miyake Geino Doushi Kai at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute. I also enjoyed an amazing concert with Miyake Taiko and Unit One, and had some extra training time with the great Kris Bergstrom on Tally Ho. It rained THE WHOLE TRIP except one sunny day spent in Santa Monica at the beach and pier, and I even snuck in a visit with my Aunt Natsuko!
The second trip was to celebrate Asano Taiko US fifth anniversary! I was really excited to participate in the workshops and celebrations that were planned, and really enjoyed the concert in Little Tokyo. My friend Karen joined us on this trip and we really enjoyed having her along! What an amazing trip, but not without the unexpected craziness (sneaking McDonalds into the ER at 4 am???). Eric and Karen joined me to dig deeper into Jack Bazaar with Kris Bergstrom. After my friends left for home, I did some deeper intensive work on Omiyage and Yodan with the amazing Yuta Kato (and broke a bachi).
In August was a special opportunity to participate in a workshop with Eitetsu Hayashi and Eitetsu Fu-un no Kai, who came to Calgary on their first stop on their Canadian tour. I was honoured to assist with organizing the workshop held at in the TransAlta Pavilion at MRU, welcoming taiko players from Edmonton's Kita no Taiko and Booming Tree, Lethbridge's Hibikiya and Lethbridge Community Taiko, as well as the local Calgary community. We learned some odaiko fundamentals and a new piece Sen no Kaikyo, which some of us performed with Eitetsu Fu-un no Kai and Mr. Hayashi at the Omatsuri Festival at Max Bell. There was also an amazing concert at the National Music Centre, even though the air conditioning broke in the middle of a heat wave. We were all very grateful to the Japan Foundation and the Consulate General of Japan in Calgary for this opportunity. (photos from the Consulate, Japan Foundation, and Kelly Deschenes)
Other Yama no Oto performances through the year were collaborating with Cochrane Music Society for the Alberta Band Association, workshops for a piano studio and high schools, Bridgefest, the Calgary DragonBoat Festival, Carmen Remix and the YYC Music Awards with Michelle Minke, Globalfest, and a special collaboration with Marc Vantol Percussion at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge.
My oboe did not get a lot of attention this year.I did manage to travel to Cranbrook and Creston for the Symphony of the Kootenays, in the pit for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and other sporadic freelance gigs. In November I returned to the Calgary Civic Symphony and I'm looking forward to more oboe (and English horn!) playing in the New Year. I enjoyed playing in our annual Calgary Zoolights trio and quartet, and spent a cold (but amazing) weekend in November teaching at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
Some people tell me that I'm busy and they don't know how I fit it all in. I credit my supportive family, without whom I couldn't be on this journey. As if our life was not busy enough, we welcomed a new furry addition to the family: our sweet Kale'a, who is wreaking havoc on our house and our lives.
I wish you all the best of the season, and all the best for 2019. I'm looking forward to time with loved ones, exciting projects, and seeing what life has in store!