With dance-like movements, the 26 Taiko performers rhythmically pounded out different patterns and beats on the free-standing drums that resonated throughout the gym almost taking your breath away.

The McCloud Elementary School students held their Final Taiko performance May 2 – the last for Taiko instructors Wanda Welbourn and Julie Bennett, who are retiring.

“It’s been such a pleasure and an honor to teach here in McCloud,” said Bennett.

With dance-like movements, the 26 Taiko performers rhythmically pounded out different patterns and beats on the free-standing drums that resonated throughout the gym almost taking your breath away. The students played five different pieces composed and written by sensei (Taiko teachers) Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba.

“Taiko requires patients, stamina and energy,” said Bennett. “It is complex and takes a lot of brain work. The hardest thing to do while playing is to smile.”

Taiko drumming has been available to McCloud students from third to eighth grade through the Young Imaginations program that brings music to under-served schools. Prior programs through Young Imaginations has been Jazz band, musical theater and pageants. Young Imaginations was created by Marianne Locke 12 years ago and has introduced numerous guest artists through the years. To learn more about Young Imaginations go to their web site at youngimaginations.org.

“This is a transition point. Taiko was born out of the inability to have band due to the lack of students. The carryover will be early childhood education from preschool to third grade with Mrs. Jean Miller at McCloud Elementary School. Music is for a life time,” said Locke.

Early Childhood Education introduces singing, introduction to reading music, movement and special instruments designed for young children.

At the end of the Taiko performances, Locke presented Bennett and Welbourn with wreaths as an acknowledgement in appreciation for their years of work with the students.

“The end of Taiko is an end of a special era of music at McCloud Elementary,” said McCloud Elementary School Principal Shelley Cain. “In the last five years the students have gotten to participate in an art form that is performance and music wrapped in culture. They may not even realize how lucky they were to be a part of something so magical, but they certainly performed with the same passion with which Wanda and Julie infused into the program. Great teachers produce great results and that final performance was a culmination of Julie and Wanda’s passion for their art, Taiko, and their equal passion for imparting their knowledge to children. We’ve been truly blessed to have them as part of our McCloud Elementary School family. They will be missed but the kids take the lessons of Taiko with them forever.”