My introduction to shakuhachi was in the summer of 2000. I liked making instruments (and still do), and found plans on the internet to make a shakuhachi out of PVC pipe. I would carry it around with me, play in the woods, etc. I liked the sounds I could make with it, and found it was a good way to pray when I didn't have words. (Inspired by the book Siddhartha, I had entered attending Bible College and was studying Christianity to learn whether the faith that I grew up with was true or not).|
A year or two later I dropped out of Bible College to study other faiths, especially Buddhism. I also happened to meet a shakuhachi teacher, Patricia, who shared my interest in Zen but was also a Christian. Studying shakuhachi with her was a very special time; she also became my counselor and mentor. We would talk together, play together, and pray together. With Patricia I discovered that shakuhachi can act as a spiritual barometer - a mindfulness practice to help you become aware of what's going on inside you. This is especially effective when you have someone else to talk with. Again, I also saw that when improvising freely together with someone else, shakuhachi can really help you to let your emotions flow again when they've become blocked up. During this time I became a Christian as well, but in a different way from before.
I went back to Bible College to finish what I started, then came to Japan to live and find work. I began studying Myoan-ryu shakuhachi (the school directly affiliated with Zen) with Barry Weiss and Suiko Takahashi. Myoan-ryu shakuhachi is primarily for meditation / health / self-realization, not for performance. Barry (who is now a Zen monk) taught me that shakuhachi is a true sound, not a beautiful sound (though a true sound can often be beautiful). Much like the Psalms of the Bible, Honkyoku expresses the gutteral groans and atonal longings of the soul. It expresses joy as well, but the music is honest and direct before it is musical.
Suiko-sensei also showed me extraordinary kindness. He lives what he teaches; there are not too many people in Japan who really care about Buddhism, but this man does. He accepts people as they are. His style of teaching is not to show you the "correct" way to play, but to help you find your own sound. I once asked him about a certain fingering for a piece, and he responded, "this is my style. what's your style?"
I later got married to Mutsumi, a music therapist from Hakodate, and had a little girl, May. We moved together to Hirosaki, the home of Kinpu-ryu shakuhachi. I did my MA at Hirosaki University in ancient Chinese (T'ang dynasty Zen), and learned Kinpu-ryu from my professor, Yamada-sensei. He is almost family to me, and helped me to come out of my shell by reminding me that it's safe to. He helped me to discover my passions in life, and reminds me not to worry or hurry. I still seek his advice on many matters in life.
I've been making shakuhachi (from bamboo this time instead of plastic) since 2012. I learned to make jinashi shakuhachi first, and am currenty studying under Miura Ryuho-sensei, learning to make jiari shakuhachi.
I currently live with my family in Hirosaki, where I play with my daughter, teach shakuhachi, play shakuhachi at elementary schools, nursing homes, and other events, make shakuhachi, and translate books.
My teaching style is not attached to any particular school. I teach primarily myoan-ryu and kinpu-ryu honkyoku, but also work on improvisation, traditional music, and even composition depending on the student's interests. If you are going to be in Japan and would like a lesson, or even to try your hand at making a shakuhachi, feel free to get in touch.