Wadaiko Newark, 2004. Marie is the woman at the end of the back row
As 2004 turned into 2005, more changes beset us. Dr. Clark began his steady withdrawal from the troupe, as foretold. Along with his absence, we began to experience the presence of several new members. Throughout the year, the beginning taiko classes has provided promising new talent. We were eager to expand our ranks.
Early in the new year, we received word from Newark Unified School District that the building in which our dojo was housed was to be sold. Terry and Sue worked out a deal for us to use a different building within the district, which came as a great relief for all of us. Still, the change added to my growing sense of malaise.
That spring, most of the troupe traveled to Japan to study taiko with an acknowledged master, in an intensive 1 1/2 week-long workshop. They would also spend a few days in Tokyo.
As I was not making much money at my job, and had racked up a lot of credit debt during the previous few years' employment troubles, I decided not to go. I used the three week break from practice that the trip provided to really think hard about my misgivings. I knew it would soon be time for me to move on, but was not sure how go about extricating myself. The previous autumn I had moved into an apartment with Melissa, in Oakland. This made my Saturday morning commute to practice much longer. Could I use that as an excuse? It felt shallow, so I ruled it out as a key reason.
That summer's gig's were a bit more spread out; we'd not gotten the same amount of bookings as the previous summer. This seemed alright, as the adjustment away from Dr. Clark's leadership was proving to be a tough one. The tightness and esprit de corps of the previous year had vanished. I felt that the leadership vacuum allowed for certain ego clashes that had been subsumed for the good of the group to rise up anew. We also struggled to integrate the new blood. As various members vied for control of our direction, our music suffered. I'd seen it a lot over the years. "Same old same old" was a thought that crossed my mind a lot over those months.
I also noticed that Marie was struggling to keep up physically during our routines. He pallor was a constant white, too. She just did not look right. By September, she'd decided to take a break from the group, for physical reasons.
That October, during a particularly frustrating practice session, I quarreled openly with two other members of the group. Nasty words were exchanged. Real grievances were aired. I left practice very angry, but more so, sad. I realized that I had to quit. Now. I'd delayed for too long.
A few days later, I composed my resignation letter. The day after that, I drove to the dojo after work and slide the letter under the door. I was done. It felt great to be moving on.
Marie passed away in 2007. I regret that I did not get to say goodbye to her. I still have the last email that she sent to me, in which she expressed sadness that I'd left the troupe. I was honored to attend her memorial service that spring.
I remain grateful for the skills I learned from the troupe. Taiko drumming still informs my kit playing a lot.