It’s the end of September of 2017 and I’ve been playing about 26 months now. The last year however have been extremely slow due to my work schedule which hasn’t given me much chance to really focus and practice. For about 4 months I was taking regular shamisen lessons with Kevin Kmetz in Japan via Skype which has helped in keeping me more concentrated despite my slow progression. One of the positive things about private lessons is the focus on fundamentals which is exactly what I need and really enjoying it! Bachizuke, tataki, scales, etc… In December, my schedule started to open up and finally started really practicing again. Now, I just have to increase my absorbtion rate of pieces and all will be great. All in all I’m happy with my progression so far. I was fortunate enough in my first year to get a chance to meet and get some instruction from top level players, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Mike Penny, Chie Hanawa, Kyle Abbott, Reigen Fujii, and Masahiro Nitta, which has been invaluable for my learning. In April, Hiroshi Yamaguchi returned to Vancouver to perform and I helped him in administering a shamisen workshop. Also got a chance to play my shakuhachi with him which was a sweet bonus!
In June, I met the wonderful shamisen player, Lena Utsumi in Edmonton and we become fast friends and she gave me a great lesson as well. Then in August, I met another great shamisen player, Noriko Tadano who was visiting from Australia playing at the Powell Street Festival with her slide blues duet, George and Noriko. She was kind enough to join my set which was a great learning experience!
Anyway, one of the things I love about playing shamisen is the vibration of the strings and the strong percussive aspect of the practice. All the high level teachers I’ve met are also world class musicians which is also very fun to learn from.
This November during the Shakuhachi Roots Pilgrimage I will have another opportunity to meet my shamisen friends in Japan to learn from. I can’t wait!