I headed out Friday morning to Cleveland, OH for some very needed one on one time with Michael Chikuzen Gould. After jumping through the airport hoops on the way I finally arrived in Cleveland where I promptly took the train from the terminal to meet with Chikuzen. It had been some time since I had studied with him in person as real life tends to catch up with us all.

When I got there he picked me up at the train station waiting with that big Chikuzen grin I have grown accustomed to seeing every time we meet. We hopped in the car and went to his house for some quick BBQ and went right to playing.

It always amazes me how effective in person intensives with a great Sensei can be. Skype is a great tool to use for weekly lessons but I definitely feel they should be in partner with the quarterly one on one meeting whether it be at a camp or one of Chikuzen's bed and breakfast retreats where you get his attention for one weekend solely.

We worked through some of the pieces I have been working on for some time now including Yamagoe, Yama Tani, Takiochi and others. I love how he breaks pieces down into bits sized morsels you can actually ingest in a useful way.

If you are like me, you have pieces you play and there are always portions that you aren't quite 100% sure about. Sometimes, even using Skype I don't quite get it in total for some reason. Sitting there with him and having him casually observe my playing throughout the weekend gave him the ability to really assess my strong points and week points. Towards the end of the weekend Chikuzen wrote out some "homework" based on what he saw I needed to work on most and gave me some much needed forward momentum.

If you couple all the shakuhachi playing and learning with great food and some casual walks through some of the most beautiful neighborhood parks I have seen in some time with his dog, Casey, you have the recipe for a great shakuhachi experience!!! I really want to thank Chikuzen for his great hospitality and for giving what he worked so hard to learn, so freely. It was a great trip with some great lessons and even better memories!! I don't think it would have been possible to have a more relaxing yet highly productive weekend with an old friend and great Sensei!

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