LP kids get a taste of Japanese culture with Taiko drumming

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid public library closed out its 2013 summer reading program with a bang - or rather a boom, boom, boom. Tampa Taiko Japanese Drumming director Ron Collins led about 30 participants in a rousing display of drumming on four huge drums made from recycled wooden barrels, two snare-type Japanese drums, and a metal gong. The event took place Friday morning at the Lake Placid Elementary School cafeteria. The word "taiko" (pronounced "tie-co") is Japanese for "big drum." The tradition of drumming in Japan goes back over 1,000 years, Collins explained to the group of children and adults. Long ago in Japan, people believed that if you played the drums really loud, you could scare away the bugs that were eating the crops, Collins told the children. He then showed the crowd how to make a variety of different sounds by banging loudly or tum-tumming lightly on the cow-hide drum tops, cracking the drumsticks together or on the wooden drum edges and making bright dings on the gong.
After a few loud, high-energy performances that had the cafeteria tables rattling, Collins invited audience members up to give drumming a try. "I think it's exciting that the kids get to see another side of a culture from somewhere else," said Harelis Santis, who brought her sons, 6-year-old Osiris and 2-year-old Owen to the event. There were lots of big grins as the kids banged away on the drums, but not to just any rhythm. Collins modeled the sounds, and the participants followed suit. "It's a traditional martial art form," explained Collins, who also performs at festivals and leads corporate team-building events. "This is not a drum circle, it's real regimented," and it takes discipline, he added. "It's a good workout," said Santis, who gave it a try herself along with most of the other adults who attended. "Can I hold onto these?" asked Osiris, clinging to his drumsticks after playing three songs. He said he preferred the bigger drums "because they are loud." Nineteen-year-old Shaun Pineda had fun trying to trip up his nephew, 12-year-old J.R. Orozco's rhythm as the two grinned and beat drums side by side. Library assistant Andrea Connolly organized the drumming session as part of the library's summer reading program. The event followed several children's programs held throughout June and July, including a reptile day complete with an enormous yellow python, a caladium-planting event sponsored by Happiness Farms, a day of craft fun with local artist Millie Richmond and a tea party. Librarian Maria Chenique expressed satisfaction in the success of this year's program, which averaged about 70 children each day (today's attendance was light due to the Lake Placid Elementary day care program being offsite on a field trip). She stressed the importance of keeping kids reading over the summer. "It's like anything in life. If you don't brush your teeth, your teeth rot. If you don't read for three months, at the end of your academic life you lose years of literacy," she stated. During the summer reading program events held at the library, volunteers or staff members read books to the children and offer crafts, games and music. A table is set up with children's books that pertain to that day's theme which families can check out. Chenique also said the program is valuable because parents will often check out books for their children to take home either before or after the scheduled event. The fall children's programs at the Lake Placid library will include a lapsit for children ages zero to 3 on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and storytime for kids ages 3 to 5 afterwards at 10:30. Afterschool programs are also welcome to bring children to the library upon request, said Chenique. Collins was also scheduled to perform at the Sebring library location Friday at 1 p.m. For more information on any Heartland Library Cooperative happenings, visit www.myhlc.org.