Read what some of Chikuzen’s students say about themselves.
I've been playing Shakuhachi for about 4 years. I can't quite remember how I stumbled upon it but I'm sure it was linked to an interest in Zen. Prior to that my main music projects were playing piano/keyboards with a local blues band and trying to write and record songs.
I live about 1 hour from Portland Oregon and was impressed watching Larry Tyrrell play at a small concert, after a time I contacted him and began lessons that lasted about 1.5 fruitful years. After a break last summer I decided to give Chikuzen sensei a call and we set up Skype lessons. Taking lessons has only increased my Shakuhachi enjoyment and has made me a better player than I ever could have been by myself. I've learned a lot from Michael in a short period of time and am looking forward to learning much more, he's a great teacher/coach. Shakuhachi is a wonderful instrument and addictive in a good way, (my wife may disagree).
Not too many Shakuhachi players out this way, (besides Larry, I don't know of any). I'm sure I'll meet some fellow players in the future and looking forward to it. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: email@example.com
Michael A. Firman
I’ve had an interest in the shakuhachi from the time (in the late 1960s when I was in High School) that I first heard it on a recording of “November Steps” by Toru Takemitsu. I later found out that the player on that recording, Katsuya Yokoyama, was probably one of the best players in the world (and, as it turns out, one of Michael Gould’s teachers and major influences).
I’ve been seriously studying the shakuhachi since 1993. I met Michael Gould at the World Shakuhachi festival in Boulder Colorado in 1998 and have been taking lessons with him (on and off) since around that time. My interests in the flute vary greatly, although I’m pretty much focused on traditional Japanese music. I enjoy playing Minyo (folk pieces), Sankyoku (older chamber music), Shinkyoku (more modern chamber music), and Honkyoku (the music of the Buddhist tradition). I’ve done public performances and played for dance and yoga classes. I’ve even played for a wedding, but mostly I just enjoy playing the shakuhachi in the privacy of my own home. More recently I've been performing regularly with a koto ensemble.
My initial exposure to the shakuhachi came from an unlikely source, Russian cinema. In Andrei Tarkovsky's film "The Sacrifice" the main character listens to a recording of Watazumi playing Shingetsu. I was immediately drawn to the sound of the instrument and the extraordinary performance. Information on the instrument was not easy to locate in the days before the internet became so ubiquitous so I had to settle with what little I could find at the university library in 1994. About a decade later I was fortunate enough to befriend a researcher at the University of Chicago, Nakagawa Yasushi, who grew up in Japan during the war. In the course of a conversation one afternoon, we turned to discuss music and I mentioned that I was interested in the shakuhachi. To my amazement, it turned out that his childhood friend was a shakuhachi instructor in Kyoto. This coincidence rekindled my interest and at this time I was able to get a good deal more information and a recording by Miyata Kohachiro to further whet my appetite.
More than a year later, in 2006, I was called into Nakagawa Sensei's lab one afternoon and he presented me with a most extraordinary gift: a root end shakuhachi from him and his friend in Japan. We had only discussed the instrument a few times in the course of our conversations over the years and certainly not any time recently. I stared in speechless bewilderment at the instrument for some time, overcome by the generosity of these two men, one of whom I had never met. After regaining my senses, I carefully assembled the flute, brought it to my lips, and blew. A faint airy sound escaped. Immediately a bond was formed between me and the shakuhachi. Even were I not so drawn to the sound of the instrument, I now felt bound to learn to play this instrument to in some small way repay this incredible act of kindness. Not more than a month or two thereafter I saw an ad for shakuhachi lessons being offered in a Chicago Zen facility by Michael Chikuzen Gould. In a very short period of time I had fortuitously acquired a fine instrument and a teacher.
Since that time I have spent many hours practicing and taking lessons with Michael, under whose masterful tutelage I have been lucky enough to learn. In playing I hope to convey some of the joy and the wonder that I feel everytime I pick up the shakuhachi and think back on how it is that I got to be where I am.
In view of the fact that the closest shihan to my home in Adelaide, South Australia, is located in Melbourne, Victoria, 725 kilometres (i.e., 450 miles) away; occasional shakuhachi lessons were only available from performers passing through on tour or at Australian Shakuhachi Festivals held (always in the eastern states) every 18 months or so: Hence the opportunity to take lessons from Dai Shihan Michael Chikuzen Gould via webcam since September 2007 has been a major turning-point in my shakuhachi journey. Internet lessons mean that it is of no significance whatsoever that Cleveland Heights is more than 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles) from Adelaide.
As a “senior citizen”, I particularly appreciate Michael’s skill in imparting concepts, however complex, in simple terms through good-natured guidance and patience: An “old dog” can be taught “new tricks” when he has the right teacher!
There's something in the sound of the shakuhachi that seems to touch deep with-in; to resonate with our very existence. It's this resonance that first drew me to the shakuhachi. I assumed that if listening to the flute produced such a dramatic effect, then playing it must be incredible.
In January 2004, I sought out and found Chikuzen sensei, starting down the path that I currently find myself on. Ever since that first fateful lesson, I've been completely hooked. Shakuhachi is 100% addictive!
My first encounter with the shakuhachi was the result of a tourist whim on a trip to Hawaii. While driving to the top of Haleakalā, the East Maui Volcano, I stopped at a gift shop and discovered the music of Riley Lee on a CD called Maui Morning. I was immediately drawn to the haunting sounds of the bamboo flute and impressed with the color palette available to such a (deceptively) simple instrument. When I learned that the complexity of shakuhachi history rivals that of its sound, I became hooked and scouted out a way to study with a professional. Opportunities in my area were non-existent, so I turned to the Internet and Michael Chikuzen Gould for help. Thus began shakuhachi lessons via webcam in March 2009.
I currently work as a sheet music engraver and composer. I look forward to applying what I learn of shakuhachi music and Japanese aesthetics in future compositions.