2018 7-week Session Schedule Updated!

07.08 - New session starts
08.24-26 - Shinobue Intensive *learn more*
08.27 - Kris Bergstrom Workshop *learn more*

MESSAGE from Kaoru Watanabe

The next session starts on July 8th!  The session has 7 classes (each class is 2-hour long) with a recital performance on the last day. Fee for the entire session is $200. Sign-up is now closed.

THE KAORU WATANABE TAIKO CENTER preserves, teaches, and promotes various styles of taiko (Japanese drumming) and fue (bamboo flutes), shares elements of Japanese music and culture with students and creates a community among taiko players, musicians, and others.

Taiko has roots both as a living folk art and in classical traditions; and the music and associated choreography has evolved to be used in many forms ranging from grassroots community celebrations to sophisticated jazz compositions. In Japan, there are many local festivals which for generation after generation have featured taiko. These can serve as a profound means for building energy, unifying groups of people, and inspiring individuals to push their own limits in creating something greater for a community. 


Kaoru Watanabe is a Brooklyn based composer and musician who was a performer and artistic director for the iconic Japanese taiko ensemble Kodo for close to a decade and has collaborated with National Living Treasure Bando Tamasaburo, Jason Moran, So Percussion, Adam Rudolph, Kenny Endo, Stefon Harris, Kiyohiko Semba, Alicia Hall Moran, Tatsuya Nakatani, TaikOz, Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, Imani Uzuri, calligrapher Kakinuma Koji, visual artist Simone Leigh and many others and has performed his compositions at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Kabukiza, Minamiza, Blue Note NYC and has performed in all 47 prefectures in Japan.

Kaoru is an instructor for kaDON, an online taiko and fue resource presented by preeminent taiko maker Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten of Tokyo. Kaoru has taught courses at Princeton University, Wesleyan University and Colby College.

The acclaimed shinobue (bamboo flute) maker Ranjo of Chiba Prefecture has said Kaoru's sound on the shinobue is "the greatest in the world".

Kaoru was born in St. Louis, MO to symphony musician parents.  In 1997, after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music with a BFA in jazz flute and saxophone performance and performing with New York’s Soh Daiko, Kaoru moved to Japan and joined the internationally renowned taiko drum ensemble Kodo.  Based in Sado Island in the Niigata prefecture, Kaoru toured across the globe with Kodo, performing the taiko, traditional Japanese folk dance and song, and especially the various fue (bamboo flute) such as the noh kan, ryuteki and shinobue. From 2005 to 2007, Kaoru served as one of Kodo’s artistic directors, focussing on their world music festival Earth Celebration.  During this festival, he directed shows that combined music, dance, and visual arts and that featured such luminaries as Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hildalgo, Carlos Nunez, jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita and casts comprised of West African stilt dancers, tap and contemporary dancers, traditional Japanese folk dance, live calligraphy, break dance, capoeira and of course the taiko.  Also during and since his time with Kodo, Kaoru worked closely with legendary Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo, an experience that had a profound effect on his artistic growth.

In late 2006 Kaoru left Kodo and returned to NY to teach and continue performing fue, western flute and taiko in a variety of musical and artistic settings.  Recent projects have taken him across the US, Canada, Japan, Mongolia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad, Honduras, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, France and Puerto Rico.

Kaoru Watanabe's Website:

The taiko center could not exist without the generous support of Kenny Endo, On Ensemble, Lenora Lee, Ariel Shearman, Gerry Senese and Ryushu Taiko.

Special thanks to Ranjo, Miyamoto Unosuke Taiko Shoten, KODO Arts Sphere America (KASA), KaDON