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Summer Greetings!


Weblog of Kaoru Watanabe, NY based Flute/Fue player

Summer Greetings!

Fumi Tanakadate

Summer Greetings

Greetings from Madrid while in transit to Granada. My last update was in early March so there's a lot of catching up to do. 
I've been traveling to different corners of the world, making music and learning and growing tremendously from the profound challenges of various projects. 

Here's an overview of what I've been up to: 


  • A duo performance in El Paso, TX, revisiting the duo repertoire that Fumi Tanakadate and I have been developing over the past couple of years.

  • Trio concerts in San Antonio, TX, with a new group featuring percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and harpist Maeve Gilchrist. We were joined by the principle dancer of the Houston Ballet, Nao Susuzaki. I love the sound of this trio- not only is Maeve a fantastic improviser who provides both bass and melody, but she happens to plays an instrument that I heard my mom play in the house every single day growing up. And as always, Satoshi brings so much musicality, feeling and intensity to everything he does.

  • A concert in Philadelphia, again with Fumi but with the addition of Gamin, a master musician on the Korean piri, taepyoungsol and saengwhan. We did all my compositions and a lots of improvisations and I continued my exploration of using the koto in a decidedly non-traditional manner.

  • A private event as a member of the Silkroad Ensemble- performing with Shane Shanahan, Maeve, Preeti Vasudevan and Yo-Yo Ma. I've done a few performances with Yo-Yo by now but occasionally I recall how moved I was seeing him give a masterclass when I was about 16 years old- almost thirty years ago... We performed two of my pieces along with tunes by Shane and Maeve. All in all tons of fun.


  • A few days in Elizabeth Town, PA, deep in Amish country, again with the Silkroad Ensemble as part of the Ware Lecture Series on Peacemaking. There was a time when I used to think the Amish were backwards for not embracing modern technology... I guess they were right all long considering how the world is looking now?

  • Silkroad Ensemble- Heroes Take Their Stands Tour. This was an incredibly challenging tour for me. I wasn't used to reading music while playing taiko (strangely, my ability to read music while playing flutes didn't at all translate to percussion playing) and I had to do a lot of it. I wasn't used to reading music off of an iPad while using a blue-tooth-connected pedal to turn pages (a surprisingly tricky thing to coordinate for me!). During rehearsals, I always felt the sound of taiko completely overwhelmed the delicate string and wind instruments even while playing as soft as possible, so I was struggling to feel comfortable play with the tone and command that I'm used to. I used in-ear monitors for the first time. One of the pieces I played was way too fast for my skill level. We were doing one of my compositions, a last minute commission by the Silkroad Ensemble that I had scrambled to pull together. All this and more combined and I was a wreck in the beginning of the rehearsal process. All these glaring deficiencies in my playing came to light and I had to rewire my brain and body to feel at all decent about my playing. In the end, I feel I came out of the whole experience a better musician.

©David Bazemore - UCSB Arts and Lectures

©David Bazemore - UCSB Arts and Lectures


  • I performed in a site-specific opera, Murasaki's Moon, inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The composer Michi Wiancko, composed a gorgeous score and the staff, crew and performers were all truly world class. For me personally, I had to draw from all of my skill sets, improvising and reading lots of music on both the fue and taiko, working on my transposing skills and switching quickly between fue to maneuver through key changes, following a conductor, listening and matching singers as well as other instruments, often from across the room. I felt like all the skills I've been developing over the last three decades were being exploited. Having done that Silkroad tour helped tremendously in all of this.

  • Shortly afterwards, I played a gig on western flute- something I only do perhaps once or twice a year, playing with some old friends Kyle Sannaand Skye Steele as well as a host of new friends for a performance celebrating the poetry of Walt Whitman, channeled through multiple actors and musicians. Most of the music was written by Kyle and Colin Jacobson, a member of the Silkroad Ensemble who was on the Silkroad Heroes tour. More and more, all of my worlds seemed to be colliding in magnificent ways.


  • I spent a few days up on Grace Farms, a newly build space designed to host collaborative meetings between musicians, dancers, poets, visual artists, scientists, activists, theologists, architects and other creative types. The facilities, designed by the Japanese architecture firm SANAA, was elegantly and perfectly sculpted into the sloping wooded landscape. I was there for a project convened by visual artist Alyson Shotz, an acclaimed artist who has works in the Guggenheim, Storm King and other major museums and art spaces across the world. The renowned drummer Nasheet Waits invited me to be a part of the project. We spent the part of the time reading and discussing TIME, as viewed through the lens of science, religion, music and poetry and then we tried interpreting and processing some of those discussions through dance and music improvisations.

  • I made a short trip to Madrid to perform once again with the flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena- again, I felt all the experiences written above helped me alter my approach to how I work with Eva and her company in a way that felt better than it had before.

  • From Spain, I went straight to Uganda for my first visit to the African continent. I was there for some events in Kampala and had a day to visit the source of the Nile River by boat and drive around the city. It was beautiful and inspiring to meet many wonderful folks but difficult to see and hear about the rampant poverty, lack of jobs and resources for people living there.

  • Now, I'm back in Spain for two more shows with Eva Yerbabuena, one in Granada and one in Cordoba. I have a few days between shows so I will try to travel around a bit seeing different cities I've never been and having new adventures.

This summer will be on the slow side, a few performers here and there, and time to focus on writing music, practicing, developing new material, maybe making an album (?), then things will pick up in the fall again. My next show in the US is July 12th at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (more info here).

I find myself constantly in a state of gratitude for all the opportunities to perform, to study and grow and for all the continued support from friends, family and other supporters.