The Genki Spark

The Genki Spark

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Founded 2010

Basic Information

    Fiscally Sponsored Nonprofit
    Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW)
    Founder/Director, Founding Members, Program Staff
    Community organizing, Leadership development, and Advocacy

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

The Genki Spark is a multi-generational, pan-Asian women's arts and advocacy organization that uses Japanese taiko drumming, personal stories, and creativity to build community, develop leadership, and advocate respect for all. With our Japanese name ‘Genki,’ meaning to be ‘healthy, happy, and full of life,’ we embrace ‘arts activism’ as a powerful organizing strategy for effecting personal transformation and social change. 

Structure and Philosophy
Describe the ensemble's organizational structure and philosophy, including leadership structure, membership policy, and instructional process.

The work we do internally with our members focus on leadership development by utilizing arts and cultural organizing strategies to give women tools and opportunities to share her story and speak her mind.  We are a sisterhood, emphasizing relationship building among and between women, and intentionally do so across class, immigration status, generations, etc.  We aim for unity and collaboration, supporting and celebrating our members as we take charge of our lives, relationships, work places, schools, and communities. We have a paid director and 4 stipended program staff positions focused on: advocacy, events, artistic development, and teaching. We recruit new members annually and members must be committed to both our taiko and advocacy activities.

Group History
Describe how, where, and why the ensemble was founded. What was its inspiration?

Launched in August 2010, under the direction of Karen Young (formerly with Odaiko New England), The Genki Spark is both an arts and advocacy organization that aims to share the art and history of Japanese taiko drumming, develop leadership, and build and strengthen communities of respect for all. The Genki Spark was partially born of conversations amongst local Asian women about the need for powerful leaders and role models, as well as a need for a community based mechanism for building relationships between constituencies working toward social change.

List of Founding Members

Karen Young (Founder/Director) Founding members: Deena Young, Nancy Wong, Van Lee, Trisha Mah, Payal Sharma Founding Teens: Jennifer Moy, Mayuko Yamamoto

Membership Composition
(i.e. ethnicity, generation, average years of experience, musical backgrounds, and motivation for playing)

The Genki Spark is founded, organized and led by women.  Our members range in age from teens to 50+, we have roots throughout Asia including India, the Philippines, Japan, Cambodia, China, Malaysia, some of us are mixed heritage/race, others are adoptees, some of us are immigrants while others have been in the US for 3+ generations.

Description of the group's community - regional, ethnic, social, etc.

The Genki Spark focuses its efforts on leadership development, women and girls’ empowerment, alliance building, and anti-racism/anti-sexism work.  Through partnerships and collaborations, we emphasize cross cultural work and relationship building as a means to build common ground and generate knowledge and understanding. We purposefully reach out to under represented and under resourced communities working to increase the visibility of marginalized voices and intentionally strive to build partnerships with those who are closely aligned with our mission.  

Performances, Recordings, Publications

List a selection of your regular performance venues (for example, Denver Sakura Matsuri, Seabrook obon, business conventions, Manzanar Pilgrimage, Maui Marathon, etc.)

Annually, we produce two major events, our Making Women's History event in March and Brookline Sakura Matsuri in May. Video Link: Making Women's History Video Link: Brookline Sakura Matsuri In addition we make 50+ appearances annually inside and outside Boston including Boston Pride, Asian American Women in Leadership Conference, Tule Lake Pilgrimage, Boston Asian American Student Intercollegiate Conference, East Coast Asian American Student Union, and numerous schools, libraries, museums, universities, and conferences primarily addressing cultural education, leadership development, and social change issues.

Instructors, Teachers & Mentors
List the instructors, teachers and mentors who have worked with the ensemble.

We've been honored to have been taught by many instructors including: Tiffany Tamaribuchi, Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe, Kay Fukumoto, TAIKOPROJECT, Ryo Shimamoto, Mark H. Rooney, and Carrie Carter. We are also well connected to the North American taiko community through TCA, NATC, ECTC, Ringo Matsuri, and Brookline Sakura Matsuri.

Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Our annual Brookline Sakura Matsuri event brings together taiko artists from throughout the New England area. Groups that have participated include: Odaiko New England, ShinDaiko, Mountian River Taiko, Boston Miyake Taiko, and Stuart Paton of Burlington Taiko Group.

Musical & Performance Styles
Describe the ensemble's musical and performance styles.

The Genki Spark utilizes a variety of artistic and creative formats including personal story telling, spoken word, taiko drumming (of course!) comedy, multi-media (audio and video), comedy, facilitated dialogue, keynote addresses, panel presentations, and event production to build community and advocate respect for all.

Signature Works
Please include title, composer, date of composition, special reason(s) for composition, and what the work represents to the group.

THE GENKI SPARK conducts 50+ performances, workshops, speaking engagements, and events for schools, cultural celebrations, community organizations, and social justice efforts reaching and estimated audience of 2 million people annually. Performances showcase our art with a message while our workshops dig deeper. Members are trained to lead a variety of workshops such as 'Stepping Out of the Box: Understanding Identities', 'Genki Girl Power', 'Community Building 101', 'Chit, Chat, Boom!', 'Taiko Basics', and 'Tule Lake Camp and Japanese Incarceration' which address issues of social identities and oppression, girls development, women's empowerment, and Asian American history while giving participants the experience of personally enjoying the art of taiko drumming. WORKSHOP TITLES INCLUDE:

  • Japanese Taiko Drumming: Let us Bring the Drums to you! (taiko instruction and community building workshop)
  • Obon and Bon Odori: Japanese Festivals and Folk Dance (presentation and dance instruction workshop)
  • Stepping out of the Box! Understanding Social Identities (discussion and taiko)
  • Meet The Genki Spark: A Panel Presentation with the Performers (panel presenation post performance)
  • Working with the "Other:" Being an ally to Asian American Youth (discussion)
  • Community Building 101: How to Develop a Supportive Leadership Culture (discussion)
  • Genki Girl Power: Workshops for Girls and Young Women (discussion and taiko)
  • Community, Art, and Identity (facilitated activities)
  • The Tule Lake Pilgrimage: personal reflections about Japanese Internment and it’s effects (multi-media presentation)
  • Understanding Internalized Racism: How do you really feel about other Asians? (discussion and interactive exercises)
  • The Genki Spark: Using Cultural Arts to Empower and Build Community (keynote and performance)


Karen S. Young
198 South Street #3, Boston, MA 02130




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A project of the Japanese American National Museum

Major support by The Nippon Foundation