Today is a good day to start shakuhachi… or simply to pick up some new skills!

We are happy to announce the ESS Online Season 2023-24. Altogether we have 11 individual events spread out between October and June next year. Something for everybody we hope and maybe even everything for everybody – we are certainly very excited of what is coming up.

The season kicks off on the 15 October with a workshop focusing on shakuhachi beginners, aiming to give people who recently started-up, just want to and people who have been playing for a while, the opportunity to learn or solidify some fundamental shakuhachi principles – holding the flute, posture, embouchure, breathing correctly – as well as give insight into some aspects of the shakuhachi’s historical background, notation reading and tackling simple pieces and melodic patterns.

For this we have Riley Lee and Daniel Ryudo on the 15 October 2023, and if you can’t make it then, we will have another of those workshops, this time led by Christopher Yohmei Blasdel and Kiku Day, on 11 February 2024.

Continuing our autumn focus on the new shakuhachi generations we have a beginner/elementary focused workshop coming up on 11+12 November, where we will meet again Riley Lee and Daniel Ryudo, and also welcome Véronique Piron and Elizabeth Reian Bennett.

Next year the programme continues with the ESS New Year Concert on 21 January.
We moved that annual online gathering to a hopefully quieter moment in the year and we hope it gives us all the energy needed for an auspicious start into 2024. We have not finalised the details here but the programme will involve our ESS membership.

As we continue our event series we have a dedicated intermediate/advanced workshop lined up for the 2+3 March 2024. Here we have from Japan Akihito Obama, from USA James Nyoraku Schlefer and Elizabeth Brown as well our European guest Gunnar Jinmei Linder. The sessions will feature a mix of traditional honkyoku, contemporary music for shakuhachi as well as a talk. Not to miss, for any level.

April and May 2024 we introduce the ‘Voice’ a totally new aspect in our online events season. Rather than focusing on shakuhachi playing per se the ‘Voice’ will explore the cultural context surrounding the shakuhachi through a series of talks/demonstrations/workshops to introduce to us notions of voice as used in the Japanese culture, music and shakuhachi practice.

The ESS Voice series opens with a surely stimulating weekend of shōmyō Buddhist chant by Junko Ueda on Saturday 13 April, follwed by honkyoku singing with Teruo Furuya on Sunday 14 April. We continue on Saturdays with the ‘Voice in Sankyoku’ with Shino Arisawa + Miyama McQueen-Tokita on 20 April, min’yō with Kinzaburo Abe on 27 April, and finally ending the series with Anne Norman showing shakuhachi and vocalising techniques on 4 May. To be sure you don’t miss one event, we offer a ‘Voice Season’ registration option too.

And a month later in June rather than winding down we turned the dial to 11 and put together a very exciting event to complete the ESS Online Season on the 2 June – Shakuhachi & Improvisation.

This brings the rare opportunity to hear Ned Rothenberg and his take and philosophy of using shakuhachi in the improvising context. We are very happy to have him on board for this event. Equally happy though we are with our other two guests Detta Danford and cellist Juliet Colyer who will add their own improvisation flavours to the proceedings.

And if you are like us and want to be part of the whole season there is the ‘ESS Season 2023-24option where you can simply register for everything with the press of a button.
This season option of course offers this at a reduced price and is available for members and non-members alike. See our registration page for all the options and details.

Apropos members and non-members – some of you ‘non’ may want to check out our special discount for new memberships subscriptions over at the main ESS website which is available until 31 December 2023.

And remember.. Today is a good day to start shakuhachi… or simply to pick up some new skills.


Please visit the individual event pages to see relevant schedules.

We do not anticipate that general start and end times given for each day on the schedules will change but the individual lesson durations within may be amended to suit the evolving teaching content. So check back occasionally to see if there were any changes or updates.


If there are study materials (score, fingering charts, mp3, etc..) for a workshop provided by the teacher we aim to make them available to the registered participants 2-3 weeks before event commences. For the workshops using a score, we suggest you print a hardcopy beforehand.


Dependent on permission by the teacher we will make recordings of the zoom sessions availabe to the registered participants to view online for about two weeks after the event finishes.

By participating in the event, you agree to (1) the sessions being recorded. And (2) these recordings being made available to view for about 2 weeks after the event to other workshop participants. You are not allowed to record and/or disseminate the Zoom sessions yourself.


The online platform for the event series is Zoom. Please note that you will need to install the Zoom application on your device to attend. But there is no need to open a Zoom account. If you have any questions about technical aspects of Zoom please contact us beforehand. We will also send out a detailed guide with zoom workshop instructions a couple of days before the event.


Levels are never clear cut and kind of subjective so please note: It is sometimes useful for participants to attend workshops at a higher level than that at which they find themselves. If one attempts to play at least slightly beyond one’s perceived capacity, one often discovers that, particularly in the workshop context, one is carried by the group to a higher level. Additionally, even if one cannot play at the required level, the experience of hearing a piece taught by an expert teacher can lead to insights into the nature of one’s own limitations and how to overcome them. So simply sitting in on and listening to a workshop at a higher level can be a valuable experience.

Vice versa e.g. someone of elementary level, or even people considering themselves as intermediate level, may still benefit from lessons aimed at beginners as they cover basic principles like e.g. good posture, correct breathing and embouchure.

Last but not least, if you are an aspiring shakuhachi teacher the courses will offer an opportunity to gain invaluable insight by seeing experienced teachers and players giving workshop lessons tailored and structured around the different needs of beginners to advanced level students.

Reference descriptions

Beginner. This embraces all players who just picked up the instrument and started to blow to anybody who spend already a short while with the instrument and can produce sound and pitches in otsu more or less stable.

Elementary assumes that the player can obtain kari notes in otsu with reasonable security, is familiar with kan notes, even if still learning to produce them reliably, and has some basic idea of meri notes, even if intonation may be unstable.

Intermediate assumes that the player is secure with kari notes in otsu and kan, and is capable of producing meri notes reliably in both octaves, with reasonably reliable intonation

Advanced assumes that the player has a high degree of proficiency and control in production of meri and kari tones in otsu and kan, and is familiar with dai-kan notes. Intonation is reliable and stable, with good control of shaping and shading of dynamics, timbre and pitch.