Odaiko Sonora is Tucson's taiko, or Japanese ensemble drumming group. Serving southern AZ since May 2002, Odaiko Sonora is dedicated to increasing familiarity with and understanding of taiko in our community. We do this for over 30,000 people each year through classes and master workshops, performances, school residencies, teambuilding workshops and by producing concerts by internationally acclaimed taiko artists.

SOUND, MIND, BODY & SPIRIT are the principles behind our teaching and playing. Our students and members strive to honor the traditions of taiko as they have come to us through our teachers, to honor our audiences through the artistic quality of our presentations.

View a complete history of Odaiko Sonora Gigs, an archive of past entries on our News/Performances web page, and the News Room, with links to videos, articles, and past e-newsletters.

Odaiko Sonora consists of:

  • Students in our various classes
  • Community Group, formerly known as the "Tucson Taiko Juku," this group is led by senior players with PEM instruction, and is for those with a little to a lot of taiko experience who wish to continue learning and playing together. The CG has the opportunity to perform 3 or 4 times a year
  • Performing Ensemble (PEM), the professional performing group with almost 50 gigs a year
  • Performer Understudy Pool, for players who wish to learn performance skills and participate in designated PEM performances

The organization has one fulltime staff person and many volunteers, including a Board of Directors, administrative, artistic and teaching staff, costume designers/fabricators, drum builders, gig coordinators, merchandise handlers, numerous organizers and cooks and equipment haulers, and, of course, the students and players. Student dues go towards studio expenses, maintaining the equipment, and some travel and hospitality costs for performances and master classes.

Performing Ensemble Members

photos by PJ McArdle

image of Rome Hamner

Rome Hamner

(Co-Founder) My life changed forever in 2000 when I picked up my first pair of bachi. I will always be grateful to my first teacher, Stan Morgan of MoGan Daiko, the man who provided that opportunity. Over the years, I've managed to study with many of my taiko heroes: PJ Hirabayashi, Tiffany Tamaribuchi... and more.

Through teaching, I've discovered how the power, beauty, and community inherent in taiko can connect people. Teaching —to kids, adults... to anyone who will listen — now brings me as much joy as my own practice. Now, through TUSD's Opening Minds Through the Arts Program — which brings artists into the classroom to teach their art form in a way that supports and enhances kids' academic studies — I have the wonderful challenge of linking taiko to science, language arts, literacy, social studies.

image of Karen

Karen Falkenstrom

(Co-Founder) I began studying taiko with Stan Morgan in 2001 and have since studied mainly with Tiffany Tamaribuchi, leader of Sacramento Taiko Dan, San Jose Taiko and Shidara. As our group's lead drum builder, I thank Stan Morgan, Tony Trapasso, Mark Miyoshi, June Schumann, Toshi Kato and Tamaribuchi sensei for sharing their knowledge of building. Before taiko, I was an arts administrator and poet, have a BS in architecture from UVA and an MFA in creative writing from U of A. I directed the Tucson Poetry Festival, worked at the UA Poetry Center, co-founded Kore Press and InConcert! Tucson. (Ed. note: Karen was recipient of a 2008 YWCA Woman on the Move award and the 2009 Pan Asian Community Alliance Woman of the Year. In spring 2009, she received the prestigious Arizona Arts Award.)

image of Nicole Levesque

Nicole Levesque

I graduated in the spring of 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dance Education from the University of Georgia and hit the ground running on a road I was sure would lead to a lifetime of modern dance performance. In the fall of 2005, Rome and Karen gave me my first taste of taiko within a dance/taiko collaboration piece with OTO Dance. Since then, I have switched focus and am vigorously pursuing taiko as my new performance path. I have been fortunate enough to study under Tiffany Tamaribuchi and attend workshops lead by San Jose Taiko and Chabo-san of Shidara.


  Board of Directors

  • Dr. Min Yanagihashi (President) is a retired university professor. He earned his Ph.D. from University of Michigan, M.A. from University of California at Berkeley, M.L.S. from University of Washington, and B.A. from University of Hawaii. His teaching and research interest focused on East Asian government, politics, and history. Currently, he is an i-commerce business developer; co-founder of the Japan-America Society of Tucson; and actively participates in Roadrunner Civitan, Toastmasters International, the Japanese Christian Community of Tucson, and Board member of the University of Arizona Center for English as a Second Language.
  • Kathy Bender-Coin is honored to serve on the Odaiko Sonora board. She is a registered nurse, working at University Medical Center in the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery for over 20 years. Kathy, with her husband and two youngest children enjoy living in Sonoita, AZ. Kathy loves traveling as often as possible. She devotes much time to volunteering at her children's Montessori school, and is enthusiastic about encouraging children to discover new cultural and learning experiences.
  • Brienne Dylewski, CFP® has been with Financial Architects since 2003. She moved from Pennsylvania to Tucson in 1984 with her family, and met her husband, Scott, while attending University High School. Together they went on to attend the University of Arizona. Brienne majored in Business and Public Administration, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. In 2006 she completed an extensive Financial Planning Certificate Program through Boston University, leading to her CFP® credentials. In 2007 Brienne became a full partner with Financial Architects, solidifying her long-term commitment to clients and the firm.

    Brienne and Scott are volunteers for the Humane Society of Southern AZ and they recently took up cycling; participating in their first El Tour de Tucson in 2009.

  • Dr. Victor Quiros is currently pursuing a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution(graduation: June 2008) and has several years experience in facilitating group decision making and helping groups build consensus. Currently employed by Our Family Services Mediation department Victor helps Tucson residents resolve immediate conflicts and build the skills that will allow them to resolve future conflicts. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for his Neighborhood Association and the local ASTD group as V.P. of Finance. He is excited to be extending his community service to include Odaiko Sonora.

  Community Advisors

Howard Kong is a senior analyst at CB Richard Ellis, providing clients with financial and comparative leasing analysis. His other areas of focus include public relations and business development, as well as internal business planning and monitoring.

  Artistic Consultants

Tiffany Tamaribuchi, founder and leader of Sacramento Taiko Dan.

  Other Odaiko Sonora VIPs

We gratefully acknowledge the following individuals:

Stan Morgan, founder and leader of MoGan Daiko, for the sharing his deep love for taiko and his teaching. Mr. Morgan passed away in spring 2010.

Esther Vandecar of Fushicho Daiko in Phoenix, for helping us get Odaiko Sonora started, for songs shared, invitations to gigs and workshops, and for remaining a kindred spirit in our love and respect for the art form. We also thank Fushicho Daiko members Tony Trapasso and Eileen Morgan.

Mari Kaneta, sensei of the Suzuyuki-Kai School of Classical Japanese Dance, for her guidance and friendship. Calligraphy Artist Shinsuke Higuchi.

Thanks also to Marnie Sharp for our beautiful web design, to Ditte Lokon for the Japan photos, and to Nancy Hall for costumes.


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