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Joseph Small '05

Image by i-Syu

Areas of Interest:

Taiko Drumming (Contemporary and Folk), Choreography and Percussion, Japanese dance and music forms, Asian-American cultural practices.


Joe Small '05 is a taiko drum artist whose creative work applies elements of postmodern choreography and performance art.  Joe's passion for taiko was sparked in 2002 as a first-year student Swarthmore College through his studies in contemporary dance and theatre. These experiences led him to receive formal instruction at the Taiko Center of the Pacific under Kenny and Chizuko Endo, Tamagawa University's performing arts department under Prof. Isaburoh Hanayagi, and through internships with San Jose Taiko (2004) and Portland Taiko (2005).

Career highlights include Fulbright Fellowship to Japan's National Museum of Ethnology to research taiko and local festivals (2005-2006), a two-year apprenticeship in taiko and related arts and cultural practices on Japan's Sado Island under the world-renowned taiko group, KODO (2007-2009), and touring activities as a member of Marco Lienhard’s NYC-based Taikoza (2009-). Since 2012 Joe has been involved in performance and educational activities in Japan and overseas as the sole non-Japanese disciple of pioneering solo artist Eitetsu Hayashi and member of his professional ensemble Fu-Un no Kai.

While based in Southern California from 2014-2017, Joe co-founded Small Mountain Studios with fellow taiko artist Isaku Kageyama, instructed at the LA Taiko Institute, and was a guest choreographer at Santa Monica College. Joe also performed in mixed-disciplinary works including Mishinnah Production's Iphigenia and the Book of Change (dance/theatre/puppetry/mixed-media), Tetsu Production's Batare (progressive rock-taiko-theatre), and LA-based The Industry’s production of Galileo (site-specific contemporary opera). In 2015, Joe debuted his first original evening-length work, “Spall Fragments”, which toured Los Angeles and San Francisco the following year.

Following a guest artist appearance with the Sydney-based professional ensemble Taikoz in 2015, Joe rejoined them for their 2017-2018 season including concert engagements at Angel Place, the Sydney Opera House, and Darling Quarter Theatre.

As a solo artist, Joe has performed and taught throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Spain, Switzerland, and Japan.

Past cross-disciplinary performance collaborators have included Barry Brannum (contemporary dance), Chey Chankethya (Cambodian dance), Norihito Ishii (Butoh dance), Laurel Jenkins (contemporary dance), Lenny Seidman (tabla), and Josh Smith (shakuhachi flute).

Joe originally hails from Buffalo, NY. He is a 2005 graduate of Swarthmore College (BA, Dance) and a 2015 graduate of UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance (MFA, Dance).