WARTBURG COLLEGE PROFESSOR MAKES TAIKO DRUMS DURING SABBATICAL

WARTBURG COLLEGE MARKETING & COMMUNICATION

Wartburg College Professor Craig Hancock will host a viewing of his hand-made taiko drums and talk about the process of researching and creating them on Thursday, March 11, from noon to 3 p.m. in the lobby of the Bachman Fine Arts Center.  

The event is free and open to the public. Masks and social distancing are required.  

Hancock’s fascination with taiko — a term used for a variety of traditional Japanese drums and the method of playing them — grew in 2007 with the Wartburg College Wind Ensemble’s first tour to Japan. The group, which Hancock directs, stopped in Uto in southwest Japan, which is home to a museum and manufacturer of taiko.  

PROFESSOR CRAIG HANCOCK (CENTER) CREATES A TAIKO DRUM ALONGSIDE CHANDLER NJUS (LEFT) AND EZRA ANDERSEN (RIGHT). PHOTO COURTESY OF WARTBURG COLLEGE MARKETING & COMMUNICATION OFFICE.

“We took a Japanese piece to play on the tour, and had worked hard to prepare it,” said Hancock, and the group had even brought their own version of taiko-like drums along for their performances. “As we prepped for the concert in town, someone said, ‘Do you want to use some real taiko drums?’”  

Hancock and the student musicians jumped at the opportunity. They were taught how to play the drums and even invited to use some authentic taiko to accompany their special piece in the concert that night.  

While there, they also toured a hangar-size building filled with special oak tree logs that naturally hollow out as they age, which are used to make taiko drums. Finding materials in Iowa to make taiko as authentically as possible was a tough task, but Hancock found an acceptable alternative to the Japanese oak: three antique whiskey barrels.  

“A farmer near Sumner was using them for animal feed, so they were never wet,” said Hancock. “They had some bug damage, but were usable.”  

These aren’t the first taiko drums Hancock has had available for use, though. He and high school band director Cliff St. Clair of Spencer, Iowa, co-own three taiko drums that they can use when their bands’ repertoire calls for authentic instrumentation.  

HANCOCK, NJUS AND ANDERSEN CONTINUE THE TAIKO DRUM CONSTRUCTION. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARTBURG COLLEGE MARKETING & COMMUNICATION OFFICE.

“And when we aren’t using them, we loan them out, and they’ve been out all over the state,” Hancock said. “Every time I have to say the drums aren’t available, it breaks my heart a little. I’m trying to meet demand.” 

While Hancock’s goal during his sabbatical term at Wartburg this fall was to learn the drum-making process and create more taiko that he can use in Wartburg’s Department of Music, he also wants to augment demand for the instruments around the Midwest and help others fall in love with taiko.  

“Taiko is a way of drumming,” said Hancock, who took more students to Uto to learn how to play the drums during international Wind Ensemble tours in 2013 and 2019. “Traditionally it’s a festive dance, with a specific stance and stroke when playing. You don’t just hit it; you dance and stand and stroke.”  

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