Instruction

Kyo-Shin-An (Pure Heart) Shakuhachi Dojo
This is the name given to James Nyoraku Schlefer’s teaching studio by Kurahashi Yodo II (Mu-Ju-An Dojo) in 1995.

Nyoraku sensei holds two Shi-Han (Master) certificates, and one Dai-Shi-Han (Grand Master) certificate, and is well respected as a teacher in both the U.S. and Japan. He has been passing on shakuhachi tradition for nearly twenty years and devotes many hours each week to teaching. Nyoraku Sensei’s dojo is in Park Slope, Brooklyn, near Prospect Park, where he often teaches lessons when the weather is nice. Students at all levels, from beginners to professional musicians, are welcome to come to the dojo, which offers weekly lessons; workshops and master classes with prominent teachers; and student recitals. Instruments are available and sheet music is provided. Lessons are only taught in person, and one-on-one.

Shakuhachi lesson at Kyo-Shin-An Dojo

Students learn in the Japanese style, facing the teacher and first singing then playing the music together. Historically, traditional music was taught entirely by rote, with the student copying everything the teacher played by ear. At Kyo-Shin-An, the spirit of this method is maintained but with contemporary modifications, such as using notation, and with comments and suggestions to improve playing.

In the course of study, students learn to play 41 pieces of honkyoku (Zen Buddhist traditional music), 45 sankyoku pieces (chamber music played with koto and shamisen), and numerous folk songs. Upon completing this curriculum, a licensing course (which involves playing the music upside down and “teaching” it to the teacher), and a public performance, students will earn a Jun-Shi-Han Associate certificate and receive a Japanese name.

Issuing Jun-Shi-Han certificate to Karl Yoraku Spicer

Nyoraku Sensei is a Grand Master of the Jin Nyodo lineage, having learned from Kurahashi Yoshio, Mitsuhashi Kifu, Ronnie Nyogetsu Seldin, and Keisuke Zenyoji, all of whose teachers learned from Jin Nyodo. Jin Sensei’s honkyoku repertoire draws from several traditional lines; Kinko-ryu, Kinpu ryu, and Fuke Meian.

Shakuhachi study is challenging. It is at once humbling and inspiring. The rigor of shakuhachi practice is matched only by the satisfaction of being with a great sound.

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Kyo Shin An student recital, 2009

It takes a lifetime to learn the shakuhachi. So the sooner you start, the longer it takes. —proverb