Shakuhachi master visits Koloa Union Church

Grandmaster of shakuhachi, Dr. Riley Lee, will be at Koloa Union Church on Saturday, June 10 to offer “The Art of Breathing Workshop” in the morning followed by an evening performance.

The shakuhachi or Zen flute is an end-blown bamboo aerophone originally introduced to Japan from China more than 1,200 years ago and was later adopted as the spiritual tool of Zen Buddhism in the 15th century. 

During his rigorous studies, Lee endured the most puritanical of musical training routines imaginable, which involved practicing barefoot in the snow, blowing into his instrument in blizzards, hours of Zen meditation and running, all with the least possible amount of sleep in unheated dormitories, under sub-zero temperatures. 

On the conclusion of this memorable episode of notable dedication he was honoured with a place in the renown Ondekoza group of Japanese drummers and musicians, and additionally in 1980 became the first non-Japanese to attain the title of “Dai Shihan” or “Grandmaster.”

With more than two decades of teaching and performing experience, Lee has developed a number of simple and effective breathing exercises. The breathing exercises are designed to give the participants an immediate sense of well-being.

The exercises create an awareness of one’s breath while at the same time, improving the strength and control of the muscles used in breathing.

Lee is the son of Sheridan and Mary Lee, long-time members of Koloa Union Church. He and his family moved to Hawai’i in 1966. He first went to Japan in 1970, and returned in 1971, when he began his shakuhachi studies. He lived there continuously until 1977.

He was given the rank of Dai Shihan in 1980.

Lee completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Hawai‘i and a doctorate degree in ethnomusicology at the University of Sydney. He is the author of a number of scholarly articles, and has been a guest lecturer and performer at Harvard University, the University of Indiana, Eastman School of Music and the Universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland.

Lee and his wife Patricia travel extensively throughout the world to put on concerts and present workshops. They have twin daughters, Ariyana and Marieke.

A prolific composer for his instrument, Lee has released over thirty-five recordings world-wide, many of his own compositions. Maui Morning with Jeff Peterson is an original and classic recording of Hawaiian pieces played on the shakuhachi and the guitar.

The Art of Breathing Workshop will be on Saturday, June 10 from 11 am. to 12:30 p.m. with registration starting at 10:30 am.

The cost is $15.00 per person. The evening performance, on June 10, will be from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The cost is $10.00 per person. A combined ticket for workshop and performance is $20.00.

Koloa Union Church is located at 3289 Po‘ipu Road in Koloa. For additional information, call 742-6622 or 742-1730.

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