Roy Hirabayashi

Roy Hirabayashi

   San Jose, CA

Roy Hirabayashi has been playing taiko and shinobue since 1973 and is one of the original founders of SJT. He has led master classes and workshops throughout the country, composed original works for SJT and other taiko groups, toured with Kodo and Ondekoza, and performed with various jazz musicians, dancers, actors, and performance artists. Roy is the chairperson of the Executive Committee of the North American Taiko Conference and has been a judge for the International Taiko Contest in Tokyo, Japan. Roy is one of the founders of 1stACT, and is an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow and Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute Senior Fellow. He is on the boards of First Voice, Japanese Community Congress of San Jose, and Artsopolis. Roy, along with his wife PJ, received the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award for their lifelong contributions to the art form of North American taiko. Roy is a native of Oakland, California.


What did the Fellowship or Laureate mean to you at the time you received it?

To be honored with the legacy laureate award and to be recognized by our peers in the local arts community was an amazing acknowledgement of our work. 40 years ago, people did not know anything about taiko. Multicultural arts was not even a term people used. The award was a wonderful confirmation that our work has achieved an incredible level of recognition.

What do you do now? Has your art evolved or changed?

I am continuing my work as a taiko performer, composer and organizational leader. I am expanding my work to both a national and international level. I am still very much interested in the component of leadership in the local arts and taiko community. Part of my current focus is on the creation of the Center for Creative Arts with a home in Japantown. I hope this will also become the permanent home for San Jose Taiko. As a performer and composer, I am excited with the projects that allow for free form improvisation that include dance and theater.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an emerging artist?

Follow your passion and dreams and never give up. When things get tough, remember why you enjoy doing the art. Stay true to your values.

Briefly, how would you describe the state of the arts locally, as well as national and beyond?

Vibrant, engaging, passionate, under recognized