TCA Member Spotlight: Carrie Carter

If you’ve ever wondered about all the places taiko can take you, have a look at Carrie Carter’s journey. What started as a simple stroll grew into an adventure exploring the possibilities of physical, mental, emotional, and artistic health through taiko. We can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for you, Carrie!

When did you first find taiko? Is this the same time that you started playing taiko?

A lifelong tap dancer (from age 3), I suffered a foot injury in 2004 and had to stop dancing for a while. During that time, I began taking slow, daily strolls around the neighborhood of Oberlin, OH. One day, I noticed energizing drum beats reverberating from the Oberlin Community Services (OCS) building. I usually helped with the monthly food drive at OCS, so I felt comfortable just walking in to have a look. I’m so glad I did! Inside was the very first taiko group in Ohio in their first month of inception. They welcomed me with bachi when I walked in the room, and I was immediately at home. Essentially, I began playing taiko the moment I discovered it.


What has your taiko journey looked like?

I stayed with my first group, Icho Daiko (which later produced youth group Mame Daiko, and college group Oberlin College Taiko), for 9 months before moving to Seattle. In 2005, I became an apprentice for Seattle Kokon Taiko (SKT) and then a performing member. I quickly came to realize that I needed to move to Japan to better understand what taiko was, and potentially could be for me.

In 2007-2009, I lived in Wakayama-ken, Japan and studied taiko intensively with Ryo Shimamoto and also became a performing member of his then group Shippu Uchi Daiko. Next, I moved to Hong Kong where I practiced taiko by an island waterfall for a spell, with the all-women group 大點鼓 O•Daiko, and completed my MPhil. in Ethnomusicology at the University of Hong Kong. After that, I found myself in Morocco, where I practiced taiko by myself and taught privately and occasionally performed, including up in Spain and Germany, but mostly took time to begin thinking about and developing how taiko might fit more solidly into my profession. In 2013, I began the early stages of what later became my program JABS Body Care for Taiko (more below). After a couple years in China, teaching a taiko group in Chengdu and starting a family, I find myself back in Japan.

In 2017, I was honored to teach an introductory taiko class at Hibikus Taiko School in Yokohama and for the past 4 years have taught group and private lessons independently in Hyogo-ken. This last year+ of Covid has thrown off a lot of plans, but also opened doors for new discoveries. Many of my in-person classes were not possible, but my students requested I continue to teach JABS classes outside. This helped me realize that, while I initially created the program to supplement my taiko classes and personal practice, it had value as a stand-alone class. Japan’s most recent State of Emergency resulted in another closure of the studio where I teach, and I started offering JABS on Zoom. It warms my heart that so many of you have joined me to learn and discover about caring for our bodies.

Somewhere in all of that, I started www.allthingstaiko.org and Taiko Forum (now Taiko Source, run by Ben Pachter and others). And, I had the honor of being invited to perform a duet with Ryo Shimamoto in Hong Kong at the University of Hong Kong’s Centennial Celebration concert. I believe the last time I was physically present in the North American taiko community was as the Opening Session discussion curator at NATC 2011.

And, yet again, I’m moving! You can find me in the Washington DC area for the next few years starting this summer 2021. Or, at www.carriealitacarter.com.


Why did you become a member of TCA?

Since I mostly live outside of the US, I was thrilled to join TCA in an effort to support and maintain a connection with my American taiko roots.

What is your favorite post-practice meal?

O-sushi!

Do you have other passions and/or hobbies outside of taiko?

Writing has always been a passion of mine and I’ve been able to combine that passion with my life experiences by working as a Sensitivity Reader. Sensitivity Readers are hired by authors to read yet-to-be-published manuscripts with the goal of identifying cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias, stereotypes, or problematic language based on their lived experience. I recently had the pleasure of working with author Emiko Jean on her just released YA book Tokyo Ever After. Check it out if you’re looking for a fun summer read!

I have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and an anxiety condition called Selective Mutism (SM), which prevents me from being able to talk in certain situations. Most people are aware of ASD, but Selective Mutism remains very underdiagnosed. While there are recent new studies and resources, many are not aware of the help available for those with SM. My newest (and most personal) passion is advocacy for diversity in communication and for a better understanding of the true range of Neurodiversity that exists naturally in our human race, particularly for underserved families without access to resources to support their SM children. My upcoming taiko project (2023) with ManMan Mui explores how non-verbal communication can emote deep meaning that spoken word fails to, opening exploration for how we can more profoundly understand one another by Listening Into Silence.

JABS Body Care for Taiko is a big passion of mine. It stands for Joint Mobility, Alignment, Balance, Stability. Joint mobility exercises increase the range of motion in joints in order to allow for full overall potential mobility. Stretching and toning small muscle groups while simultaneously addressing joint mobility improves balance and stability, adding tools for injury prevention through safety in movement. The last part of JABS is a stretching series that gets deep into the main 3 points of attention: feet, hips, and shoulders. By strengthening and expanding the lungs fully in a range of positions, we reset our natural alignment. Intrigued? You can check out my list of upcoming JABS classes here (please verify your time zone) or contact me for a class specifically designed to address the needs of your taiko group via my website.

I also have a slight obsession with painting my face. 🙂


Last, but certainly not least: How many taiko tees do you own?

I have no idea! My taiko t-shirts were spilling out of my closet, so I mailed them to a friend to make a quilt for me… 7 years ago? She’s still working on it (I hope!).

Shime or Odaiko?

Shime daiko, definitely. Shime daiko has so much potential but it takes time to cultivate the possibilities. I enjoy thinking about the relationship between sound and movement, and slowly digging deeper–shime is perfect for this. Shime daiko can produce sound so gentle that sometimes the audience wonders, “Are they actually drumming? I feel the drums, but am I imagining it?” At the same time, though it is small, the shime daiko’s power becomes great through the power of the person who strikes it. And, the pitches! I love how many many pitches and timbres can be explored on the shime daiko!

Run for Exercise or Literally Anything Else?

Both. There are times when I feel like running plays a crucial part in conditioning, even simply feeling powerful, when I’m drumming. But, other times in my life this hasn’t been the case–I need something else like stretching, breathwork, solitude, group practice… So, I’ll happily run when it feels right, but it’s definitely not a consistent thing for me. I am always listening to my body.

Phone Call or Text Message?

Text please! 

What’s worse: Laundry or Dishes?

Laundry. I dread folding clothes and I love a clean kitchen!

Coffee, Tea, or Red Bull (or, you know, another energy drink, I guess)

Coffee 🙂

Perform in incredibly cold weather or incredibly humid weather?

Humid weather for me. There’s something I love about heat and sweat pouring down my face while exhausted but still drumming on, maybe a little bit of screaming to help endure it… It’s very empowering and makes me feel like a Superhuman.

Record your practice and study the footage or fly free on the feeling?

Neither. I use a mirror and watch myself carefully while I practice; using it as a tool, but not a crutch, tapping into body awareness. I actively memorize what the movement I want the audience to see feels like in my body. I actively memorize the feel of the arm strike and the feel of the vibrations that create the sound and image I am aiming for. When I know these feelings truly in my body, without needing to adjust based on what I see in the mirror, I’m ready!

Do you know a TCA member who you would like to see spotlighted? Send an email to Sarah Gilbert at sarah@taikocommunityalliance.org to nominate the TCA members in your life for our next spotlight!

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