This celebration for Grade 5 recognizes student achievements and marks the transition from Lower to Middle School.
Taiko drumming has been part of—and expanded within—Pingry's musical landscape since Upper School Math Teacher Chris Leone introduced it during the 2015-16 school year. Interested students gave taiko its first performance at 2016's "A Taste of Pingry," taiko became an official club shortly thereafter, and the art form has also been incorporated into Earth Day events, the Lunar New Year celebration, and more. Last week, taiko reached a new Pingry milestone: the club's first concert.
The art of taiko ("taiko" is Japanese for "drum") consists of large drums played powerfully and rhythmically with sticks. "It blew me away," Mr. Leone told The Pingry Review in 2016 about his first encounter with this music in college. "I loved the energy and raw intensity of the players. Instead of listening, I could feel the rhythm in my body. And it wasn't just people hitting a drum on stage—there was a lot of movement and choreography. It felt like an all-encompassing art form. I was getting an adrenaline rush watching them perform."
At the club's first concert with Middle and Upper School students, which took place during Pingry's celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Noah Bergam '21 spoke for the seniors, who had been dreaming of an event like this for four years: "Our club advisor, Mr. Christofer Leone . . . has patiently taught us every single song on this program. He provides the backbeat to this club, guiding us to learn from, experiment with, and simply enjoy the art of taiko rhythm."
The program consisted of nearly 10 pieces, including one written by Mr. Leone, that demonstrated the group's virtuosity. Between the selections, the club presented videos that explain how they do what they do. In one, viewers learned about the proper stance, squat, and Don and Ka beats (on the top and side of the drum, respectively). In another, stick flipping and stick twirling were demonstrated. In others, club members demonstrated Chappa, hand-size cymbals, and the Kane, a dish-shaped bell.
For his part, Mr. Leone praised the club's bond, especially this past year. "Their enthusiasm never wavered," he said. He also recognized the seniors. "All five have helped propel the group forward. Their ambition and drive are unparalleled. The group was not just learning, but understanding the music to play it meaningfully."
Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review