Soh Daiko History & Membership

Soh Daiko History

In 1979, Soh Daiko was established as the first taiko drumming group on the East Coast under the guidance of the New York Buddhist Church. Among our beliefs, objectives, and purposes are:

  • An appreciation of Japanese and Japanese American heritage.
  • A belief in the oneness of the universe.
  • A desire to promote and propagate an understanding and love for taiko music.
  • The development of our taiko skills.
  • The development of Japanese-American taiko music.
  • A desire to learn about the history, tradition and values of taiko.
  • The development of a spirit of togetherness, oneness and fellowship within our group.

The group began as a youth activity by members of the New York Buddhist Church after the Young Buddhist Association saw Chicago’s taiko group at an Eastern Young Buddhist League convention. Organized by membership chairman Mamoru “Mo” Funai and adult advisors – Jim Moran, Merle and Alan Okada – they started a taiko group with a grant from the Church. With this small grant, they learned to make barrel drums with help from Chicago and Kinnara taiko groups and David Matsushita.

Asking Reverend Hozen Seki for a name that would mean “peace, harmony, working together,” the group was given the name “Soh Daiko.” The name reflects the spirit of dedication and cooperation, which enabled the group to flourish from its beginnings. The group gained early instruction from taiko players, such as Reverend Ron Miyamura of Chicago’s Midwest Buddhist Temple Taiko Group, and Reverend Masao Kodani of Kinnara Taiko in Los Angeles. They taught Soh Daiko not only about drum building, but about basic taiko techniques and philosophy, resulting in the group’s evolution from a youth to an adult group.

Russel Baba, a musician and a former member of the San Francisco Taiko dojo, helped Soh Daiko to understand what taiko could be, and encouraged the group to seek more advanced instruction from Sensei Seiichi Tanaka of San Francisco Taiko Dojo. With funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Soh Daiko conducted two intensive week-long workshops with Tanaka-sensei. These workshops dramatically changed Soh Daiko’s style and repertoire.

Instruction from the Tachibana Dance Group and visiting taiko players, especially members of the Kodo taiko group, proved inspirational. This friendship with Kodo resulted in a unique joint concert, “Kodo/Soh Daiko: A Taiko Celebration” at the Japan Society in 1987. Shortly afterwards, Soh Daiko took its first trip to Japan, highlighted by a stay with their hosts, the Kodo group on Sado Island.

The group has steadily increased its varied repertoire to include traditional compositions from Shinto music tradition, adapting existing taiko compositions, and original arrangements by its own members. Soh Daiko has performed across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom, and at celebrated venues that includes Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and Radio City Music Hall.

The group’s debut recording, Soh Daiko, has been released by Lyrichord Discs.


Soh Daiko’s history has been written by its members. The roster bears the names of over 80 members – each with unique talents, backgrounds and playing styles. Though most have moved on, their contributions are woven into our music, our movements and our group spirit.

Soh Daiko Membership since 1979

Alan Okada(1979-2014)
Merle Okada(1979-2013)
Mo Funai(1979-1984)
Jim Moran(1979-1984)
Toshiko Bliss(1979-1981)
Teddy Yoshikami(1980-1986, 1987-2013)
Sandy Ikeda(1980-1987, 1990-1994, 1996-2003)
Janice Sakamoto(1981-1982)
Toni Morizumi(1981-1982)
Margaret Yuen(1981-1984)
Elaine Fong(1983-1992)
Aichi Kochiyama(1983-1988)
Audee Kochiyama(1983-1985)
Wendy Takahisa(1983-1995)
Jenny Wada(1983-1994, 1996-1998, 2000-2003)
Legan Wong(1983-1988)
Peter Wong(1983-1990)
Kenny Chin(1985-1988)
Lori Kitazono(1985-1990)
Sandy Terui(1985-1987)
Miyoko Tsubamoto(1985-1987)
Theresa Day-Kitazono(1988-1993)
David Day-Kitazono(1988-1990)
Charlene DiCalogero(1988-1990)
Eba Aoki(1989-1994)
Choony Lee(1989-1998, 1999-2004)
Cynthia Mauro(1989-1991)
Alice Pitty(1989-1990)
Toshi Kawanishi(1990-1996)
John Ko(1992-1998, 2001-2008, 2013-2016)
Junius Harris(1992-1993)
Danny In(1992-1994)
Maria Olivas(1993-1998)
Kathy Fuller(1994-2000)
Monona Yin(1995-2001)
Hideaki Nishikura(1995-2002)
Shinji Yoshida(1995-1996)
Karen Fowler(1995-2000)
Kelly Kuwabara(1996-2001)
Lillian Cho(1996-2001)
Mark Chung(1996-2001)
Gayle Horio(1996-2001)
Paul Yoon(1997-1998)
Kaoru Watanabe(1997-1998)
Chikako Saito(1999-2002)
Hitomi Kimura(1999-2002)
Wynn Yamami(1999-2003, 2006-2010)
Carissa Aoki(2001-2003)
Chizuko Hashimoto(2001-2002)
Charles Huang(2001-2014)
Tamiko Ooka(2002-2004, 2011-Present)
Heather Larson(2003-2008)
Junko Nakagawa(2003-2014)
Wendy Whiteside(2003-2004)
Kim Wu(2003-2004, 2006-2008)
Midori Yasuda(2003-2007)
Chika Kawada(2004-2005, 2009-2010)
Lorraine Kikuchi-Gates(2004-2006)
Hana Yoshikawa(2004-2010)
Mia Ihara(2006-2006)
Laura Johnson(2006-2007)
Shogo Samata(2006-2007, 2008-2010)
Traci Yokoyama(2006-2010)
Miyuki Rivera(2007-Present)
Momoko Sato(2007-2015, 2016)
Ariel Shearman(2007-2013)
Jason Chan(2008-2011)
Chuck Simchick(2008-2011)
Jane Conrad(2009-Present)
Danny Hayman(2009-2015)
Anton Palma(2010-2015)
Joon Paik(2011-2013)
Matt Tom-Wolverton(2011-2012)
Aya Ino(2012-2013)
MacConnell Evans(2014-2019)
Akira Baruah(2014-2016)
Nick Loh(2015-2020)
Yue Qiu(2015-2020)
Sarah Gilbert(2016-2020)
Anna Croteau(2016-Present)
Julianna Hessel(2018-Present)
Claire Huang(2019-2020)
Keiko Yamamoto(2020-Present)
Jodi Scharf(2022-Present)
Nick Mechak(2022)