Ondekoza's last stop: Dickinson, ND

By Shigeyo Henriquez

A severe blizzard was on it’s way, we were warned! We finished the concert early Sunday evening of March 8th in Pierre, ND, so we decided to drive all the way to Dickinson, ND. We drove in the dark through heavy fogs and rain and reached the parking lot of Ramada Grand Dakota past midnight. Ken Carlson was very worried. We kept in touch with him until we reached the destination. The blizzard didn’t hit Dickinson until the next day on Monday afternoon. We finished the workshop at Trinity High School as scheduled on Monday. Then the blizzard hit. It was an amazingly powerful snow storm, over 50 m/h wind and snow was blowing all directions! Ondekoza members have never experienced the snow storm like this ever. They got out of the van and tried to balance against the strong wind. It was hilarious to watch. All schools were closed Tuesday and it became our day off. By Wednesday all roads were cleared of snow. In northern states like North Dakota, main roads and parking lots get plowed quickly and efficiently. We performed the workshops as scheduled.

We were able to complete the workshop at Trinity high school before the blizzard hit on Monday afternoon.
We were able to complete the workshop at Trinity High School before the blizzard hit on Monday afternoon. All photos by Shigeyo Henriquez.

The wind was so strong. It was hard to stand straight.
The wind was so strong. It was hard to stand straight.

Ondekoza has discussion with music teachers and students of Dickinson University.
One afternoon we had discussion with music teachers and students of Dickinson University. Some of the topics entail the life of professional musicians, history of Ondekoza, their missions and individual future goals of the students. It was a productive meeting, they all agreed.

The final concert was held mid-week on Thursday, March 8th. The weather was not pleasant, but people kept coming. When I saw the crowd, the 770 seats auditorium was well filled. This was the final concert of a 6-week tour. It could be my imagination, but somehow Ondekoza’s performance seemed to be more deliberate, energetic and lasted longer. After the show people lined up for autographs and to have pictures taken with the performers. I met a couple who used to live in LA. The man used to be a reporter for the Los Angeles newspaper in 1979 and interviewed original members of Ondekoza. He wrote an article about them and was so thrilled to see Ondekoza again, almost 40 years later!

The last workshop was performed at Dickinson Library. A hundred chairs were set on the floor. While we were setting up, people came, situated themselves and waited. Young children, adults, and seniors filled the community room of the library. Most of them missed the concert on Thursday but they did not miss this workshop. As always, Ondekoza played a few pieces first, then an explanation of Taiko and it’s history, and after that audience participation and a few pieces of drumming to end. We must’ve met the majority of people in Dickinson. People recognized us where ever we stopped in.

Yoshi performs Kendama at the final concert on Thursday night.
The concert night Yoshi asks audience to count, “One, two, three!” as he swings the large red ball. The audience yells, “One, two, three!” Yoshi corrects, “No, no, please count only when the ball swings in one direction, not both ways.” Audience laughs and let’s do one more time. “One, two, three!” After the count of three the ball swings high up in the air and Yoshi catches it with the pointed side of cupping stick. Big applause follows. This is my 6th time watching Yoshi do this and I can’t help myself being stunned by this amazing act.

A music teacher was eager to participate in the Taiko drumming along with a dozen students.
A music teacher was eager to participate in the Taiko drumming along with a dozen students at Stickney Auditorium.

Yoshi performs Kendama and makes the wooden red ball looks like floating.
Yoshi performs Kendama and makes the wooden red ball looks like floating.

Mid-day on Sunday we drove to Fargo to spend a night. The next day as soon as we reached Country Inn & Suites in Minneapolis we wrapped the Taiko drums for shipping to go back to Japan. Ken rented a truck to haul the Taiko to the freight company in Chicago. We loaded up the truck and Ken left. For Ondekoza’s final night in the US, I wanted to have a nice dinner, so I asked David Fraher, President and CEO of Arts Midwest, for his recommendation. He suggested a restaurant in Hennepin area. David made a reservation and treated us for a wonderful dinner. Thank you David. I pointed out the office of Arts Midwest as we drove by.

We traveled over 2,000 miles, we met more 10,000 people. I am proud to work for Arts Midwest and their commitment to promote creativity, nurture cultural leadership, and engage people in meaningful arts experiences.

It’s still dark. Ondekoza members make the routine run of 6am 6-miles, no matter what.
It’s still dark. Ondekoza members make the routine run of 6am 6-miles, no matter what.