Photo by Max Whittaker

Artist Profile

Composer and musician Kaoru Watanabe grounds his performance in traditional Japanese music while inhabiting a startling combination of musical worlds. He is renowned for his ability to collaborate with a diverse array of visionary artists: Yo-Yo Ma, Jason Moran, Spanish flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena, visual artists Simone Leigh and Alyson Shotz, calligrapher Koji Kakinuma, Japanese National Living Treasure Bando Tamasaburo, vocalists Alicia Hall Moran and Imani Uzuri, tap dancers Tamango and Kazunori Kumagai, Galician bagpiper Carlos Nuñez, So Percussion, Semba Kiyohiko, Reigakusha, Adam Rudolph, the Aizuri and Parker String Quartets and pipa virtuoso Wu Man. In 2018, Kaoru debuted as an orchestral soloist and composer with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. He is an advisor, composer and featured musician on the Oscar-nominated score of Wes Anderson’s film Isle of Dogs and was a guest artist on the Silkroad’s Grammy Award-winning album Sing Me Home.

In 2000, Kaoru was the first non-Japanese to become both a performing member and artistic director of the renowned taiko performing arts ensemble Kodo. He was also the first to be invited to perform with and direct the group as a guest artist after leaving in 2006.

Find out more and follow Kaoru at his website:

Kaoru’s kaDON Courses:


Concert Description




2020 has been the best of years and the worst of years. The global pandemic, the loss of so many beloved cultural figures and close family and friends that all shape our worlds, the historic and systemic racism rampant in all levels of society, the senseless explosion in the Beirut, apocalyptic wildfires up and down the Pacific coast, the crumbling of ethics, morals and a sense of decency with roughly half the US population. Personally, my means of making a living has been decimated by the COVID epidemic, not to mention actually getting sick with COVID in early April.

However, all this has been met with what feels like an awakening – people young and old responding with passion and vigor to the overwhelming devastation created by both man and nature. Many have been agonizing about their purpose in life and their role in society in ways that perhaps they wouldn’t have in more “normal” times. For me, instead of constantly traveling, I’m spending time caring for and being cared for by loved ones. I have been maintaining my discipline as an artist, continuing to compose music, and develop my voice, greatly inspired by fellow artists and people who continue to fight against the oppression, racism, sexism and classism that pervades our society.

I would like to use this two-part concert series as an opportunity to connect to an audience, to mourn the loss of loved ones and to a way of life, and a way to celebrate the way forward as we pull together to face the new world we now inhabit. All the music that will be presented during this two-part concert series will be compositions created in 2020, most of it after the quarantine began. The title of the series, HARUKA TO AKIRA comes from the name of my father and uncle who were named by my grandfather, who happened to pass away in May 2020 at the age of 106, a product of a forgotten age. My father Haruka’s name (杳), which can be interpreted as “deep” or “distant hope” is a reflection of one of the darkest times of modern history, World War II, while his younger brother, whose name AKIRA (暁),  “the light of dawn”  or “enlightened”, was born after the end of the war.

I sincerely look forward to raising a glass and sharing a moment in time with everyone.

– Kaoru Watanabe

A portion of the revenue generated by this virtual concert will be donated to these two organizations:

Children Cancer Center Lebanon

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund


Part 1: Saturday, October 10th
Part 2: Saturday, October 17th


Both concerts are one hour in duration starting at:

12:00 PM PT (Los Angeles)
1:00 PM MT (Denver)
2:00 PM CT (Chicago)
3:00 PM ET (Toronto/New York)
8:00 PM (London)
9:00 PM (Madrid)
4:00 AM (Tokyo) (Sunday October 11th + 18th)


Three Ticket Tiers

Community Support Tickets: sponsored by members of our community and offered free of charge for anyone who needs a little help during these difficult times. Email us at with the subject line: Community Support Ticket and tell us a little about your situation and we will send you a ‘Community Support Ticket’.

Regular Ticket: $25 for kaDON subscribers / $30 for non-subscribers

Regular Ticket + Sponsor a Community Support Ticket: $50 for kaDON subscribers / $60 for non-subscribers

For this concert, we are trying something new as a way to continue fostering connection and support within the community. We believe it is important to support artists especially during these difficult times when many concerts and performance opportunities have been cancelled. However, we also understand that many of us are currently dealing with financial challenges and thus, we do not want lack of funds to be a barrier for people to enjoy great music.  

For this reason, tickets will be offered at three different tiers: Regular tickets will be priced at $25 for kaDON subscribers ($30 for non-subscribers) for this two-part concert series. If you’d like to help other members of the community to attend, you will have the option to double your ticket purchase ($50 for kaDON subscribers or $60 for non-subscribers) and those extra funds will be put towards sponsoring ‘Community Support Tickets’ as well as supporting our artists. These ‘Community Support Tickets’ will be set aside for those who would like to attend, but could use the assist. Please email directly if you could use the help and are interested in a Community Support Ticket. 

What do I need?
  • Open mind
  • Favorite drink of choice to enjoy during the concert
  • Optional (but fun!): somewhat fancier attire. This could range from a nice shirt to full concert dress! After all, when was the last time you had to dress up? 🙂
Important Notes
  • Each concert is recorded (instructor view only) and is shared with the registrants
  • Each concert is followed by an optional 30-minute community hangout and Q&A time