WMN's Special Guests
Donna McElroy is Grammy-nominated vocalist, who has been an arranger & background vocalist for gold and platinum CD releases from artists such as Reba McEntire and Amy Grant.
She has also had numerous television appearances, and is a missionlary with International Christian Artists Reaching the Earth, Ghana.
Donna says one special gift she brings to teaching, is over 20 years of experience. She says, "students love me because I've gone through all these things, and I still have the love to share with them. I'm not bitter, and I'm not depressed...the music comes first, and that's a gift. I don't claim that; I just accept it and manage it, because it's a gift from God. I know it is."
She has performed at our WMN concert with her "Jubilee Spirit Ensemble".
FOUNDER OF ODAIKO NEW ENGLAND
“The enormous value of role models is what inspired me to become a taiko drummer. I saw taiko for the first time at an outdoor festival in New York City’s Lincoln Center park in the 1980s. At first, what caught me was the sound – it was unlike any percussion I had ever heard. And then, what mesmerized me was the sight of twelve drummers not only in rhythmic unison, but swirling and moving around the drums. The combination of movement, drumming and vocalization was exciting and enthralling. And of those twelve drummers, nine were women. It was the first time I had ever seen Asian women, much less an Asian woman drumming. All of the stereotypes of Asian women disappeared in smoke as I saw Asian women, with full throated yells, create a sonic sound that I could feel in my bones and my cells – they were asserting their identity, and not someone else’s interpretation of who they should be. It galvanized me to my core. I had to learn this art form. I have never looked back since that time."
Taiko is traditional Japanese drumming, noted for its power and athleticism. Elaine Fong is the founder of Odaiko New England, and has been performing and teaching taiko for 20 years.
Elaine first witnessed a performance of taiko in New York City. A dozen—primarily Asian—women were playing together onstage to create a massive sound. This was a transformative
experience: the energy was exhilarating, and the female drummers also spoke about empowerment. Media images of Asians were very limiting at the time, and Elaine notes that "no one was telling these women what to do."
Taiko has opened many doors for Elaine. She has been part of many amazing performances, including one for the Dalai Lama.
Elaine has studied with many taiko greats, including the world-famous Kodo drummers of Japan. Ms. Fong has also worked across disciplines, collaborating with choreographers, as well as composing musical scores for theater.
Elaine performed as a guest artist at the WMN Concert Thursday, November 8th, 2019, at the BPC.