Mesmerizing Japanese Taiko Drumming Coming to Heritage Center

Jan 19, 2018 | University Relations staff

DUBUQUE, Iowa – University of Dubuque’s Heritage Center continues its fifth annual Live at Heritage Center Performing Arts Series with Ondekoza, direct from Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in John and Alice Butler Hall. Part of Arts Midwest World Fest, this five-member ensemble features the delicate and soulful sounds of the shakuhachi and the sheer power of the taiko drums. 

WHAT:            Live at Heritage Center Performing Arts Series – Ondekoza, taiko drummers

WHEN:            Saturday, Feb. 17 – 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:          John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center, University of Dubuque

TICKETS:        $15-$20 adults, $11-$15 UD alumni/military, $10 child/student

Fusing incredible athleticism, pounding rhythms, and peaceful melodies, Ondekoza’s performance will leave you inspired and energized. The ensemble has captivated audiences across the globe since 1969 when the group first began. At the foundation of Ondekoza’s style is a unique combination of physical fitness, running, and drumming – a philosophy called sogakuron in which “running and drumming are one, and a reflection of the drama and energy of life.” They demonstrated this principle in 1975 in Boston where, after completing the Boston Marathon, Ondekoza immediately ran on stage and performed a full concert. Ondekoza members live together in Japan, running and drumming at the base of Mt. Fuji.

In collaboration with Dubuque Arts Council, UD is in the midst of a two-year partnership with Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest. During the partnership, four international ensembles representing Israel, Japan, China, and Norway will visit Dubuque and spend a week each. The first ensemble, Israel’s Sofi & The Baladis, visited last fall.

“The first ensemble visit went well and we’re eager to have another group in town for a week. The groups not only perform a public concert, but they also spend most of the week they are in the schools sharing their culture through workshops,” said Thomas Robbins, executive director of Heritage Center. “It’s not often smaller communities like ours have the chance to host international ensembles like Ondekoza at all – let alone for a full week. We’re fortunate. This is a rare opportunity for us to enjoy an authentic slice of Japanese music and culture right here.”

Arts Midwest, one of six U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, partners with program sponsors like The National Endowment for the Arts, 3M, and The Heart Foundations to cover a substantial portion of the program cost so communities throughout the Midwest can enjoy this rich arts experience. Dubuque was selected as one of nine Midwestern cities to host the 2017–2019 Arts Midwest World Fest season and it is the only partner community in Iowa.

“Between UD and the Arts Council, we would be hard pressed to identify the resources to host weeklong residencies of the kind Ondekozaoffers,” Robbins said. “It’s a real honor to be part of this program.”

Arts Midwest World Fest presents international music ensembles in the nine-state region it serves with the goal of connecting small and mid-sized Midwestern communities to world cultures. Arts Midwest’s mission is to promote creativity, nurture cultural leadership, and engage people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people's lives.

“Arts Midwest’s goal is to make meaningful and lasting impressions on the communities that host this program,” said David Fraher, president and CEO of Arts Midwest. “We think week-long residencies can offer so much more than one-day visits. There are more opportunities to truly connect with each other whether through workshops in schools, concerts in the greater community, or through social gatherings. We want this to be a rich experience for the entire community.”

Prior to the concert, members of Ondekoza will deliver a free pre-show lecture from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Babka Theatre, adjacent to Butler Hall. They will offer insights on their group, work, and, specifically, background related to Japanese music and culture addressed in the performance.

Tickets for Ondekoza can be purchased Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Farber Box Office, Heritage Center, University of Dubuque, 2255 Bennett Street; by phone at 563.585.SHOW; or online at

A program of Arts Midwest, the 2017–2019 Arts Midwest World Fest cycle is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Hearst Foundations, 3M, the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program, the Kaufman Family Fund for Israeli Cultural Exchange, the Nordic Culture Fund, Music Norway, and the BNSF Railway Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Heritage Foundation Grants Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation for Manhu. Funding for Sofi & the Baladis is provided in part by contributions from the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest; Israel Lottery Council for Culture & Arts; and Music Port. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Arts Midwest is also generously supported by Illinois Arts Council Agency, Indiana Arts Commission, Iowa Arts Council, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Minnesota State Arts Board, North Dakota Council on the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, South Dakota Arts Council, and Wisconsin Arts Board.