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 All Ages Recreational Taiko (AART) classes
  • Community Group 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
  • Performer Understudy Practices (PUP) Sat. 12:30–2:15pm and Wed. 5:30–8:30pm for players to learn more challenging repertoire, in crease technical and performance skills. These players are given the opportunity to perform in approximately 15 performances a year
  • Performing Ensemble Members (PEM), the professional performing group, leading CG and PUP, and appearing in almost 50 gigs a year

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/Director) 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/Director) Karen began studying taiko with Stan Morgan (MoGan Daiko, Tucson) and Esther Vandecar (Fushicho Daiko, Phoenix) in 2001. Since then, she has worked with many respected masters, mainly Tiffany Tamaribuchi (Sacramento Taiko Dan), San Jose Taiko, and Shidara. She is a current member of Tamarabuchi’s Jodaiko. Odaiko Sonora’s lead drum builder, Karen was guided by Mr. Morgan, Tony Trapasso, Mark Miyoshi, June Schumann, Toshi Kato and the Asano family. Before taiko, Karen directed the Tucson Poetry Festival, coordinated events and media at the UA Poetry Center, and co-founded Kore Press and InConcert! Tucson. Karen has a BS in architecture from UVA and an MFA in creative writing from University of Arizona. She is the recipient of a 2008 YWCA Woman on the Move award, the 2009 Pan Asian Community Alliance Woman of the Year, the prestigious Arizona Arts Award (2009) and, in 2014, a Tucson Pima Arts and Business “Lumie” for Arts Patron.

image of Nicole Levesque

Nicole Levesque

Nicole received her Bachelor's Degree in Dance Education from the University of Georgia in 2003. She moved to Tucson shortly after to perform with OTO Dance and other groups, including New Articulations Dance Theater and Thom Lewis Dance. In 2005, she began playing taiko through a collaboration with Odaiko Sonora and OTO Dance. In addition to being a member of the Odaiko Sonora Performing Ensemble, Nicole is a member of Jodaiko, the internationl taiko ensemble led by Tiffany Tamaribuchi. As a Teaching Artist in Tucson Unified School District's Opening Minds Through the Arts program, Nicole brings dance and taiko to thousands of kids each year.


  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.
  • Kerrie Green, MSW is a social worker in the area of prevention services with The Healthy Families program of Child and Family Resources, Inc. She has lived in Tucson since 2005. Kerrie played with Odaiko Sonora in the Taiko Power class, the AART group and the Community Group from 2006 to 2009.
  • Charlene Forbes Retired CFO for Arizona’s Children Association. Odaiko Sonora Community Group member and Friend of Odaiko Sonora supporter for nearly ten years.

  Community Advisors

Howard Kong is a senior analyst at Grubb-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 Consultant

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 founder 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 former Fushicho Daiko member Tony Trapasso and Eileen Morgan, Fushicho's current leader.

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 web design, to Ditte Lokon for the Japan photos, and to Nancy Hall and Sue Sparrold for costumes and drum bags.


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