Musician Marco Lienhard, center, will be performing with Moab Taiko Dan members and other local musicians when he comes to the Moab Arts and Recreation Center on Thursday, April 28. [Photo by George Hirose / Courtesy of Moab Taiko Dan]

People familiar with Moab Taiko Dan may have felt the thrum of their high-energy, Japanese-style drumming at performances around the region or the finish line of one of Moab Half Marathon’s races.

This month, New York-based musician Marco Lienhard is visiting the area for the first time, and he will join the group and other enthusiastic local musicians for a performance at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. The event will feature taiko drumming and other traditional Japanese music, and is free, with a suggested donation of $5 at the door to help cover logistical expenses.

Organizer and local drummer Margaret Hopkin met Lienhard more than two decades ago at a taiko workshop in California, and the two have remained in contact as she continued to study and perform. When she heard he would be holding workshops in Salt Lake City this month, she was thrilled to invite him to experience the wonders of southeastern Utah and share his talent with Moab.

“Taiko is a global family,” Hopkin said. “It’s really cool; the global network is real. The taiko community is full of gracious people.”

Lienhard was exposed to taiko drumming when he visited Japan as a Swiss foreign exchange student.

As a lover of theater and as a classically-trained pianist and violinist, Lienhard sought out performances of traditional Japanese kabuki theater, and was drawn to the energy of the accompanying music.

He approached the now-internationally renowned Japanese taiko group Ondekoza and asked to play with them, and what began as a teenage lark in the 1980s became an 18-year journey into an art that ultimately introduced him to marathon running and brought him to the United States.

Ondekoza had a profound and lasting effect on taiko drumming internationally, Lienhard said.

The term “onde” roughly translates to “demon,” although in Japanese the term carries a less-sinister connotation, he said.

Located on remote Sado Island, the group was originally founded by Den Tagayasu. He introduced the discipline of running to the young men and women who gathered there to learn from his music and philosophy, which includes the idea that “running and drumming are one, and a reflection of the drama and energy of life.”

Lienhard was part of the group’s famous marathon performance tour that took them more than 9,000 miles around the perimeter of the U.S. over three years in the early 1990s. He continues to perform and teach both the taiko drums and the shakuhachi flute with his own New York-based Japanese music company, Taikoza.

“I was fortunate to learn from great masters in Japan,” Lienhard said. “It felt like I needed to share the knowledge I got.”

His teachers told him as much, he said, assigning him his calling as he journeyed on to his own endeavors.

“It’s your role to pass it onto other people,” they told him. “You can do this, so it’s your responsibility to teach.”

During his stay in Moab, local taiko players will be invited to workshop sessions with Lienhard, where they will learn a piece he recently wrote, called “Beginnings.” The piece will express the joy of the Japanese creation myth, Lienhard said, using the tonality and rhythms of both the drums and flute.

Taiko master brings Japanese rhythms to Moab on April 28

“Taiko is a global family … It’s really cool; the global network is real. The taiko community is full of gracious people.”

When: Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

Cost: Free; A suggested donation of $5 will help offset expenses

The Moab Arts and Recreation Center is located at 111 E. 100 North. To learn more about the artist, go to