Board & Staff
Sarah Gilbert, Operatons Manager
Sarah started her musical career as a western-trained percussionist at the Crane School of Music in upstate New York. In 2012, while pursuing an MA in TESOL, she joined Stony Brook University’s resident group, Taiko Tides, under the guidance of Joan Miyazaki, Eva Nagase, and Joe Dvorak. Sarah has since had the opportunity to play taiko in Japan as a performing member of Towada Suijin Kaminari Daiko in Aomori prefecture and Uminari Daiko in Taneichi, Iwate while serving as an Assistant Language Teacher in the JET Program. After returning to New York, she became a performing member of Soh Daiko and served as the group’s Technology and Archival Chair before moving to LA where she now studies at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute within Asano Taiko US.
Sarah has been active with TCA since 2015 – first as a volunteer, then contractor, and now as staff. Outside of TCA, Sarah served as an advisor with Taiko Tides in planning the 2018 East Coast Taiko Conference at Stony Brook University and taught high school mathematics and English to non-native speakers before transitioning to nonprofit and technical administrative work full-time.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Akemi Chan-Imai (Co-Chair), Programs Manager, Oakland Asian Cultural Center
Akemi began learning taiko drumming in 2001 with Makoto Taiko in Pasadena, CA and has served as Artistic Director and Artistic Coordinator for USC Kazan Taiko from 2007-2010. Akemi served on Makoto Taiko’s Operations Committee from 2009-2014, and became President of the group after it obtained 501(c)3 nonprofit status in late 2014. She is a former Board Fellow of Kizuna’s Next Generation Leadership program and obtained a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management at Antioch University Los Angeles in 2018. After serving as Makoto Taiko’s inaugural Executive Director from 2017-2018, Akemi relocated to Oakland, CA and currently works at Oakland Asian Cultural Center as their Programs Manager.
Benjamin Pachter (Co-Chair), Executive Director, Japan-America Society of Central Ohio
Ben is Assistant Director of Dublin Taiko, a student taiko group that is part of Dublin City Schools, Dublin, OH. His passion for taiko lies not only in performance but also in research and documentation. He received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, writing his dissertation on the musical history of contemporary taiko performance in Japan and the United States. This path led him to co-develop TaikoSource.com, a website dedicated to the development of information resources about taiko performance. Meanwhile, he is also deeply involved in the documentation of taiko performance, having served as photographer and/or videographer for the North American Taiko Conference, the European Taiko Conference, and the East Coast Taiko Conference. When he’s not playing, researching, or documenting taiko, Ben is the Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio, a non-profit based in Dublin, OH.
Kelly Kuwabara (Co-Vice-Chair), Development Director, Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia
Kelly Kuwabara has played taiko with Soh Daiko, the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center, Kyo Daiko, and Hoh Daiko. She has taught taiko classes and workshops at Settlement Music School, Allens Lane Art Center, Staten Island Arts, and other locations. Kelly is also a member of the samba drumming group Unidos da Filadelfia (caixa). She has worked in many non-profit organizations, including stints as the Program Director and the Development Director of the Asian American Arts Alliance. She is currently the Development Director of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and an adjunct instructor of English literature and composition at Cumberland County College. Kelly holds an A.B. degree in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College and an M.A. degree in English and Creative Writing from New York University. Kelly believes in the power of the arts to sustain people and build communities, the importance of music and rhythm in social change movements, and the necessity of showing up at demonstrations with a drum. Her favorite 16th note is the “ee” after one.
Gail Montgomery (Co-Vice-Chair), Executive Director, Michael I Kudo Foundation
Current member and the Treasurer of the newly-formed Sun Mountain Taiko of Colorado Springs, Gail began learning taiko with the Taiko Society in 2015 and was fortunate to attend workshops led by Kris Bergstrom, Minh Nguyen, Masayuki Sakamoto, and Yuta Sumiyoshi. Although she’s a relative taiko newbie, she has 20 years’ experience in the nonprofit arena, primarily in finance and project management with a holistic child development organization, and Board service for several animal welfare organizations, and holds both an MBA and CNP (Certified Nonprofit Professional) title. In 2019, Gail co-founded the Michael I Kudo Foundation and currently serves as its Executive Director.
As part of the TCA Board, Gail hopes to promote the benefits of taiko: cultural, physical, team-building, fun!
Additionally, Gail is the soft goods maker for Taiko Colorado and is a stay-at-home dog mom, living on acreage in Colorado where she doesn’t have to worry about bothering the neighbors when she practices taiko – and piano!
Paul Sakamoto (Co-Secretary), IT Specialist, State of Hawaii Department of Education
Paul started his taiko studies as a founding member of Puna Taiko under the tutelage of Reverend Earl Ikeda in 2002 and has served as the Director since 2004. In addition, Paul assists at Puna Taiko affiliate groups, Pahala Hongwanji Taiko and Kamana Senior Taiko, and is currently working on re-establishing the long-dormant Hawaii Island Taiko Camp. He currently serves on the TCA Fundraising Committee and previously assisted with the 2017 crowdfunding campaign. In his other life, he works as an IT liaison at the Hawaii Department of Education.
Josh Yoon (Co-Secretary), Senior Scientist at Johns Hopkins University APL
Josh is currently a student in the Mark H Taiko School taught by one of his heroes, Mark H Rooney. He was a former member of Stanford Taiko (2013-17) and freelanced as a performer, student, and workshop instructor for a few years afterwards. Josh largely works with all-things Tech, but also conducts scholarly work on the taiko community at large and Googles things when he doesn’t know how to do something.
Josh hopes to be someone who brings the best out of everyone on the Board and to help continue TCA’s march towards being better ambassadors for the taiko community.
Additionally, while Josh runs outside, his mind goes to weird places, and he’s wondering – what’s a good run-thought (or shower-thought, or ramen-thought…) you’ve had recently? Please feel free to share with him at his TCA email, listed below!
Daniel Hayman (Treasurer), Director of Data and Analytics, Ascend Public Charter Schools
Danny started playing taiko at the age of 15 with Kaze Daiko in Seattle, WA, under the instruction of Stan Shikuma. In his sophomore year of college, he founded Claremont Psyko Taiko (now called Claremont Colleges Shogo Taiko), the first taiko group at the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, CA. Also while at Claremont McKenna College, he founded SOURCE, an undergraduate-staffed organization which provides nonprofit consulting services to human services nonprofits in the Claremont area. After graduation, he moved to New York City, became a high school math teacher, and started drumming with Soh Daiko, where he was a member from 2009-2015. Now living in Seattle, Danny served as the registration chair for Seattle Regional Taiko Gathering 2018, and is currently serving on the Regional Taiko Groups Seattle bylaws committee. He is currently a member of Northwest Taiko along with his mother.
Dr. Wanda M. Kurtcu (She/Her), Supervising Teacher, San Jose State University
A performing member of Wadaiko Newark for 17 years, Wanda was also in attendance at the 2013 Launch Meeting for TCA and has since become a Lifetime Member of the organization, as well as currently serving on TCA’s HEART (Humility, Empathy, Anti-Racism, Resourcefulness, Transparency) Committee, focusing on the practices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. Within the taiko community, Wanda is a part of the HUG (Healing, Unlearning, and Growing) collective, as well as NtbD (Name to be Decided) in taiko, addressing issues and challenges faced/experienced by women, non-binary, and LGBTQI+ players within the male-dominated world of taiko.
Wanda has a doctorate is in Social Justice and Equity and, with recognition of diversity as an important part of any organization, hopes to bring that experience and voice to TCA in support of its current “growing pains” and efforts to reshape itself into a more inclusive and supportive entity within the taiko community.
Additionally, Wanda is a LEGO enthusiast! She loves Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel Comic and DC universes, and plays Dungeons and Dragons. Truth be told, she’s a Sci-fi/Fantasy nerd and lives in those worlds as often as she can.
Kate Meigneux, Design and Project Management, StudioK8.com
As Kinnara Taiko celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019, Kate celebrated the 20th year of her taiko journey with the oldest Buddhist Taiko Group in North America. In her younger days Kate was classically trained on violin, cello, and piano, performing in youth choir, orchestra, and dance in England and Australia. She went on to study Architecture and Design and received an MA from the Royal College of Art in London. Kate moved her practice to Los Angeles in the late 80’s, and started a family in the mid 90’s. Shortly after, she joined Senshin Buddhist Temple and felt the irresistible heartbeat of taiko drumming. As soon as she picked up the bachi in her mid-40’s, Kate knew she had found a new voice and a new community. With Kinnara, Kate has performed in several significant concerts in California, Oregon, Hawaii, and India; in particular, a momentous series of concerts brought California’s 3 founding taiko groups together in the 3 Japantown Concerts in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco. Kinnara also has a special relationship with the Arpana Dance Company and the two have collaborated on many occasions over the years, combining the arts of taiko drumming with Bharatanatyam dance. A magical highlight on Kate’s musical journey was traveling with Kinnara and Arpana on a tour through Southern India bringing taiko drumming to places in which it had never been heard. Kate is now collaborating with members of Kinnara, San Jose Taiko, and SF Taiko Dojo on the TCA funded Taiko Voices Project.
Carley Okamura, Executive Assistant to the Chair and Associate Chairs, University of Alberta
Carley has played taiko since 2001 with Kita no Taiko in Edmonton, Canada. She has served on their Artistic Board since 2006, organizing group administration and artistic direction. She also teaches workshops and classes, and performs. She enjoys producing large-scale performances, specifically with collaborative elements and guest artists. In 2017 she launched her own production, “The Model Minority” which used varied artistic disciplines to explore the social issues facing Asian Canadians. She is also proud to be a member of the Women and Taiko community, and is interested to explore the relationship between taiko, community, and identity.
Tamiko Ooka (TCA Vice-Chair, 2019-2020), Account Executive, National Tenant Network
Tamiko began learning the art of Japanese drumming in 1990 with instruction from Reverend Ron Miyamura of the Midwest Buddhist Temple and Soh Daiko. She is a founding member of Hoh Daiko, a Japanese drumming group established in 1991 and affiliated with the Seabrook Buddhist Temple in southern New Jersey. Tamiko has served as both artistic director and manager for Hoh Daiko and is still an active member. Tamiko became a member of Soh Daiko from 2002-2004 and 2011- present. She currently serves as Chairperson for Soh Daiko in New York City.
Jason Seymore, HR Business Partner, ADP TotalSource
In 2006 at the age of 17, Jason embarked on his taiko journey when he began learning under the tutelage of sensei ISHIKURA Takemasa of Matsuriza/Orlando Taiko Dojo in Orlando, FL. As a member of Orlando Taiko Dojo for nearly ten years, Jason performed all over the state of Florida and the southeast. He also assisted in teaching new students basic techniques, conduct workshops for local community organizations, and volunteered his time and energy every year for the annual Orlando Japan Festival. In 2014, Jason sought to forge a new path and began preparations to open a school for taiko drumming in New Hampshire. With permission and blessings from his teacher, he visited Japan to gain a deeper understanding of taiko and experience some of the classical musical instruments of Japan. In 2016, after completing his undergrad at the University of Central Florida, he relocated to New Hampshire to begin putting plans into action and incorporated Hokuto Taiko Dojo. While on his journey, Jason also began to become a more active member of the Taiko Community through attending the 2017/2018 East Coast Taiko Conference and the 2019 North American Taiko Conference. Realizing how large the community really is, Jason began looking for ways to give back by volunteering time at conferences to support and express his appreciation for the opportunities available during these events. As a new Member of the Board of Directors with the Taiko Community Alliance, Jason now has an opportunity to show gratitude and continue to support the community at-large and looks forward to working hard for everyone in the Taiko Community!