Profile Type: Artist
Karen Young

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

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.

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I Have Worked With

  • December 2019

    Karen provided 3 hands on music education workshops for the 4th grade as well Newton's Creative Arts & Sciences' (CAS) parent volunteers had an opportunity to preview. Students learn the history and useage of taiko in both Japan and North America as well have opportunities to learn and practice drumming technique in a fun, creative, supportive environment. Students discuss what it feels like to play taiko and support their classmates.  

  • April 2019 to October 2019

    Working with the City of Boston's Age Strong Commission, Karen developed a 6 week series called 'Say Your Age' which uses media, visual arts, portraits, video, chant making, and taiko to discuss, identify, and combat ageism while building relationships among elders.

  • September 2019

    Karen was one of three plenary panelists on Arts Connect International's 5th Anniversay celebration addressing the issue of Cultural Equity in the Arts.


  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
Cultural Organizer, Teaching Artist
Physical Address: 
Roslindale, MA 02131
Last Name: 


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Music - Ethnic / World
Additional Disciplines: 
Humanities - Cultural Heritage
Music - Ethnic / World
Year Founded: 
Populations Served: 
General Public
Immigrant Populations
LGBTQ Populations
People with Disabilities
School Groups
Institution/Business Type: 
Artist (Individual)
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Arts in Healthcare
Arts Instruction / Lessons
Community Arts
Performance / Concert / Reading
Public Art Projects (In Free, Public Spaces)
Residency - Community
Residency - In School
Workshops / Demonstrations / Master Class
Events Per Year: 
Seasons Active: 
Geographic Reach: 
Town / City
Multi-County Region
Multi-State Region

Affiliations and Accomplishments

Professional Associations: 
Taiko Community Alliance
Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture - Boston AIR awardee (2018)
The Boston Foundation - Live Arts Boston (2018-2019) grantee
The Boston Foundation - Boston Neighborhood Fellow (2019-2021)

I am a Touring Artist

Technical Requirements: 
Stage dimensions - 20 feet deep, 16 feet wide, 2 wireless mics/stands, projector
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: 
State of Residence: 
Minimum Number of Performers: 
Maximum Number of Performers: 

I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Afterschool Program
Arts and Cultural Center / Venue
Community Site / Center
Corporate Business
Healthcare Facility
Private Studio
School / University
Subject Areas: 
Arts Integration - History and Social Science
Ages Served: 
Elementary School-age
Middle School-age
High School-age
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: