The Carolina Forest Elementary School Taiko Drum Ensemble is on the program to perform Saturdayand Sunday at JapanFest 2012 at the Gwinnett Center Convention Center in Atlanta.
The group left by bus after school on Thursday for the event – an annual celebration of Japanese culture since 1986 – and return home late Sunday night.
“It’s the largest get-together of Japanese culture south of Washington, D.C., and there are about 20,000 people who will show up over the two days,” said Tim Peterman, the school’s music and drum instructor, who leads the ensemble.
The group is made up of 12 students, fourth- and fifth-graders from the elementary school, and sixth-graders who have moved up to Ocean Bay Middle School but are performing because the event is so early in the school year. Peterman said some of the performers just started this year, and students who are interested in the group may audition as early as third grade.
Peterman said the ensemble applied to be in the event, but he also sent along a video so organizers could see that the young performers weren’t just cute, but that they really can play. The move paid off, and the group will play once on each day, joining Matsuri-za – a traditional Japanese drumming group from Tokyo that regularly performs at Epcot Center – as the only groups to hold both of their performances on the main performing arts center stage.
Taiko is the Japanese word for drum, and these are the big drums that were first played in Japanese festivals and Buddist temples, but Peterman said they are now an entity all to themselves.
Peterman was a percussion teacher and head of the World Music Performance Center at West Virginia University before moving south in 1998 to join Horry County Schools. He has inspired students with music and all manner of percussion, first at Conway Elementary School and now at Carolina Forest.
The students have the advantage of performing first on both days, which will allow them to take in other parts of the festival and attend an intricate performance based on Japanese mythology tonight.
“The award is for the kids to learn about Japanese culture because there is not a lot of it here in South Carolina,” Peterman said. “I’m really proud of the kids for what they’ve accomplished, and I hope it’ll give them something to remember.”
For more information on JapanFest, go to www.japanfest.com.
Scholarship semifinalists announced
The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced approximately 16,000 semifinalists Wednesday in the 58th annual National Merit Scholarship Program, according to a news release from NMSC.
The academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring.
Horry County semifinalists are Jeffrey Garland and Elizabeth Pruett from Aynor High School; Austin Adams, Tyler Rhorick, Taylor Seagle and Margaret Shelton from St. James High School; and Morgan Gilliam and Samuel Wathen from Carolina Forest High School.
Georgetown County semifinalists are Shannen Deeter and Madeleine Gates from Low Country Preparatory School and Bryce DeChamplain and Austin Meares from Waccamaw High School.
To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.