Karen is a cultural organizer, teaching artist, and organizer living in Boston, MA. Her primary art is taiko (Japanese drum). She conducts performances and presentations on the background and usage of taiko in Japan and North America focusing on voice, empowerment, and community as well provides instruction allowing participants to learn first hand.
In her decades-long work as a community builder and performer, artist Karen Young inspires real connection. Her personal story of disenfranchisement compelled her to find her own voice and use it to help others find theirs. Her passion for taiko drumming was ignited the first time she heard it thirty years ago. It is now the center of her work. Turning aspiration into realization, Karen’s approach to taiko inspires marginalized populations to reclaim voice, culture, power, and a sense of belonging.
Influenced by Japanese-American taiko activists of the 70s, Karen is most interested in using taiko as well as organizing strategies to empower, engage, and inspire people into action. In 2018, she was selected as one of seven Boston AIRs (Artists in Residence) charged with addressing issues of resilience and racial equity by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. She is the founder and artistic director of The Genki Spark, co-founder/co-producer of the Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival, and one of the key organizers behind www.womenandtaiko.org.
Karen got her taiko start as an original member of Odaiko New England founded by Elaine Fong and has many taiko mentors including Tiffany Tamaribuchi and Roy and PJ Hirabayashi. Karen leads taiko workshops and discussions throughout North America and Europe, is a TCA (Taiko Community Alliance) charter member, and has been part of the North American Taiko Community since 1997.
In addition to her role as a social practice artist, Karen founded the leading youth advocacy organization, Youth on Board. She is a principal author of: Youth on Board’s 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision Making, and Your Guide to Youth Involvement and the Law, and a contributing author of; Money Talks so Can We and Asian Voices from Beantown. She has served on numerous boards and commissions, and was most notably appointed by Presidents Bush and Clinton to the 1990 Commission on National and Community Service which launched the well known federal program AMERICORPS and has been part of the United to End Racism delegation at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage honoring Japanese and Japanese American incarcerees since 2009. Karen has her BA in Human Ecology from Humboldt State University.