Terre Haute, Indiana

By Shigeyo Henriquez

When we started this tour in mid April, the first community was Marquette, Michigan, where we shivered in snow. It’s now early May and the weather is definitely warmer, the bright ray of the sun makes us squint. It’s almost too hot that we need to wear lightweight clothes.

The last workshop in the Terre Haute area was on the afternoon of Friday, May 7th. We visited Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The professor, Maki Hirotani, asked the students to submit their comments on the workshop.

Here are just a few of the comments we received describing the reaction of the students and how Agatsuma and his ensemble inspired the students.

I really enjoyed the Agatsuma session that we were able to attend on Friday. I had only heard the Shamisen once before from an online video. I was very impressed by the rich sounds that could be produced by the shamisen and the large variety of music that could be played with it. Furthermore, I was extremely impressed with Agatsuma san’s ability to tune the instrument while he played the music at the same time. I have played the guitar for nearly seven years and I don’t think I would be able to ever master the art of tuning and changing keys while playing. I don’t think I have ever even seen an instrument that relies on constant tuning in order to play. I really liked the way that Agatsuma was able to integrate contemporary genres while still maintaining elements of the traditional styles that are inherent to the shamisen. —Jared West, student, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

The Shamisen performance was an absolutely amazing show. I had never heard any sort of traditional Japanese music and it completely surprised me at how good it was. —Brian Sutterer, student, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

I was very surprised after hearing the actual sound of the shamisen. I did not expect it to be so loud, and have such a strong tone. This is because I am biased to the sounds of other string instruments, such as the violin and guitar. … Agatsuma and his playing of the shamisen was the centerpoint of the information session, but I also really enjoyed learning about the tradition of Taiko drums and listening to what they sounded like. I had never been to a Taiko drum performance, so this was a good introduction. … Overall, I really enjoyed myself, and appreciated the chance to see a world-famous shamisen player. Not only the classical Japanese pieces, but the ones that were a mix with modern music were also very good. —Leah Howard, student, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Agatsuma plays shamisen while people watch at nearby cafe tables.
Welcoming reception. Photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.
A television crew films the ensemble playing in a local library.
Local NBC television crew captured the mini concert at the Terre Haute Main Library. Photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.
Children's Sumi brush paintings on a bulletin board in the classroom.
Students at Devaney Elementary School had studied Japanese art, Sumi brush painting. Photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.
Agatsuma performs shamisen in a college classroom.
Agatsuma performs for students at The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.

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