22 Apr Teacher Highlight: Walter Nishinaka and Maceo Hernandez
If you’ve been to events in Little Tokyo, it’s likely that you’ve experienced the thrill of Walter Nishinaka and Maceo Hernandez’s taiko performances. Whether they’re performing with East LA Taiko or the J-Town Taiko Club, it’s hard to forget the booming beat of their drums.
Both Walter and Maceo have dedicated their lives to the art of taiko, playing since their youth. Now, they hope to pass on their love for taiko to the next generation of drummers through the J-Town Taiko Club, a performance group that meets weekly at Terasaki Budokan. “It’s our passion. If we can bring our love and our passion for taiko and pass it on to someone else, we’ve done our job,” said Walter. “We’ve had people that are currently in other taiko clubs, that were in taiko clubs, and some who have never drummed at all. It’s open to all ages and there’s no skill level necessary,” explained Maceo.
Classes started last year following the long-awaited opening of the Terasaki Budokan facility. When classes started, they were an immediate hit within the community and slots filled up quickly. A second session had to be added to meet the demand. “Mike Murase had this vision for Budokan years ago and along the way, he reached out to me about doing taiko here once it opened up. So I’ve been waiting all these years,” Maceo told us. “It’s really nice that we finally have this facility where we can have a group and produce quality taiko.” “We’ve been waiting for so long. We have other community centers in Little Tokyo, but to have one for sports and a performance center, it’s home for us,” added Walter.
Inclusive programs like the J-Town Taiko Club truly make Budokan a “home court for all” and help achieve Budokan’s mission of sharing Japanese and Japanese American culture. “LA is a melting pot of culture. We have different lifestyles and different backgrounds, so having a community taiko group here in a community center like Budokan, it needs to be open to all of us,” explained Walter. “We want to bring in people from this community and the greater DTLA community to come and give taiko a try,” added Maceo.
J-Town Taiko Club meets on Tuesday evenings in Terasaki Budokan’s community room. J-Town Taiko Youth Club, a new session for youth ages 6-13, will start next month on Saturdays. To learn more about the program and register for classes, visit: https://give.ltsc.org/event/j-town-taiko-club/e356693