These lecture demonstrations on shakuhachi are in ‘show-and-tell’ format with appropriate emphasis given to specific areas of shakuhachi depending on the class. Find your group below for a better explanation of what you may expect when I visit your class. If you are interested in demonstrations for junior or senior high, you may want to read the elementary section beforehand.
When presenting to the younger students in elementary schools, I use the opportunity to ‘educate’ them. I always bring a variety of objects made from bamboo to show the children between songs. These objects grab the students’ attention as bamboo is not something they see everyday. Even if they have seen things made from bamboo, they don’t usually know what it is! I also bring stalks of bamboo that have been pulled from the ground but still have the dirt and roots on them. This way, the children can make a good connection to the source. Showing them the natural state of bamboo and then playing the shakuhachi made from bamboo usually opens their eyes.
Of course, playing the shakuhachi is important. If the children are studying a Japanese song in their music class, it’s nice to play the song for them while their teacher leads them in singing. I have taught in both kindergarten and elementary schools, and I know it’s important to keep things moving along to keep students’ attention. However, I also find that many children are calmed by the sound of the shakuhachi. visiting elementary schools has always been a positive experience.
Junior and Senior High School
Students in this age group have longer attention spans than the elementary students and also have the physical ability to try playing the flutes. As with the younger students, I usually bring props made of bamboo as a point of interest. In addition, I can bring plastic flutes for them to try out. I find that these students are very eager to try playing themselves, and enjoy the new challenge. By this age, many students are playing other instruments, so they have more appreciation for the abilities it takes to play shakuhachi and can better understand it from a musical perspective.
The history of shakuhachi can also be interesting to this age group if it’s presented in an engaging fashion. The stories of Ronin, the ex-samurai, becoming shakuhachi spies employed by the government are usually a big hit.
There are a variety of courses at the university level that can benefit by having an in-class lecture/demonstration. Almost any class involving some aspect of Japanese culture will enjoy learning about the shakuhachi. Please read the paragraph below that pertains to your specialty area.
• Ethnomusicology class: Presentations in ethnomusicology classes emphasize the historical roots of shakuhachi in Zen culture and how it was used by monks in their daily lives.
Of course, I also demonstrate/play the instrument itself. ‘Hands on’ opportunities are often rare for ethnomusicology students, so I always bring some plastic shakuhachi and offer students a chance to play the instruments before the end of class. I also allow time for the students to experience chanting. I bring scores and CDs to provide examples of chanting, and then I lead them as a group.
• Music class: Presentations in music classes incorporate everything mentioned above, plus a demonstration of how shakuhachi music contrasts with Western music in terms of philosophy and how the instrument is played. I also explain the shakuhachi notation system. Flute students are especially interested in hearing the special techniques that they have learned to imitate, and seeing how these techniques are played. Again, I bring extra shakuhachi so that the students have a chance to play the instruments before the end of class. There are always lots of questions from music students and there never seems to be enough time to answer them all. I feel that this lecture/demonstration is a very enriching experience, as the students get to glimpse how music is incorporated in the lives of people in a culture vastly different from the western music culture.
• Asian (Buddhist) Religion: Shakuhachi comes from a zen culture and so I make an effort to present the historical back round in a clear manner starting with the origination in Buddhist thought and manner. It is very beneficial to show the influence of chanting, especially Shomyo chanting, on the way shakuhachi is played. The class will be interactive as I will teach them how to read ancient chanting texts, have them hear examples on CD and then lead them in chanting. They will have a chance to play shakuhachi and ask lots of questions.
• Japanese language: I do speak fluent Japanese so we can discuss any aspect of shakuhachi culture using the Japanese language. Intermediate and high level classes could be conducted using only Japanese and lower level classes could benefit better by introducing a small number of vocabulary words in the explanations. Of course, shakuhachi will be the focus point and students will learn about it’s origins and see how it’s played and hear it live, probably for the first time. This is always a good time to take advantage of the opportunity and have students prepare questions in Japanese beforehand.
If you have any questions in trying to plan a presentation for your class please contact me.
Information concerning performances and fees for any type of concerts including concerts at universities and museums, home concerts, Asian festival performance, or lecture demonstrations in schools can be obtained by contacting me directly.
Evaluation of flutes is an important aspect of making a decision when buying a shakuhachi, and a teacher’s guidance and advice is necessary. Each flute has its own strengths and weaknesses, and I can help you find the shakuhachi that suits you and helps you reach your goals.
Note: Evaluating flutes is part of the learning process at Chikuzen Dojo, but as it is a highly specialized skill, you will be charged for any time devoted to this beyond a private lesson. I will help you develop the skills for doing this yourself so as to eventually remove myself from the decision making process as much as possible.
Contact me for further information.