Bruce Huebner

Journey Back to America

Bruce Huebner went to Japan in 1998 as a Monbusho Ministry of Education scholar, where he entered the Japanese Music Department of the Tokyo University of the Fine Arts and Music (Geidei). There he studied under the Living National Treasure, Yamaguchi Goro for nearly five years, becoming the first non-Japanese to graduate from the prestigious Geidai. After moving to the Tohhoku Region of Northern Japan in 1994, he produced solo shakuhachi recitals with guests Kawase Junsuke in 1995 and Murooka Shoko (Yamada School Koto) in 1996. He earned his Shihan mastership in 1995 from Chikyusha. A scholar, university lecturer, and recording artist, Bruce is also the founder of the Contemporary Sankyoku Ensemble and author of a four-volume teaching video in English for shakuhachi.

The photos below are taken from a documentary film, aired on Japanese television, about Bruce Huebner's extraordinary life and work as a foreigner living in Japan, teaching the Japanese about their own traditional music and culture.

In the summer of 1998, Bruce paid a visit to Monty Levenson, his wife Kayo, and their daughters Eda and Anna at their rural homestead located 10 miles outside of the small town of Wiilits, California. While in the workshop, Bruce showed Monty two of his main instruments that had some performance issues, both of which Monty analyzed and fixed.This visit marks the beginning of a decades-long collaboration and friendship between Bruce and Monty based on their shared passion for shakuhachi and its musical tradition.

Fast forward 23 years to learn more about Bruce Heubner and his remarkable work with shakuhachi.

Starting out in Tokyo , Bruce lands in California and heads north from Santa Barbara to continue his long journey.
After a full day of driving, he arrives in beautiful Mendocino County.
Passing through the small town of Willits (pop. 5,000) . . .
He drives another 10 miles, including two miles of dirt road, to finally reach his Monty & Kayo's "off-the-grid" homestead.
MMonty greets Bruce at his workshop.
While Kayo prepares Mexican cuisine for dinner—a local favorite called chile relleno. Bruce get a laugh renaming it "chile oriental."
Anna & Eda welcome Bruce to their home.
Some of the many shakuhachi Monty has made.
A rokusun (1.6') make of rare Kyushu madaké bamboo.
Comparing notes on shakuhachi.
Checking out Bruce's flute.
Analyzing resonance response of the open-hole tones.
Making adjustments to intonation. Sharpening the pitch of otsu and kan no Tsu.
Bruce plays his shakuhachi before any modifications are finalized.
Making permanent adjustments to the interior bore profile of the instrument.
Fixing the resonance of a note is achieved by adding or removing a miniscule amount of material to tweak the oscillating air column inside.
The very slightest change in bore profile, if done properly, can result in a dramatic improvement to sound production.
Bruce takes his enhanced shakuhachi for a test drive.
Bruce has kind words to say about Monty's innovative methods for making high-quality traditional shakuhachi "in the middle of nowhere!"
1.8' and 2.4' in concert.
Outdoors and close to nature.
A big bamboo for a tall guy. Both have come a long way.
Shakuhachi makers and players benefit greatly when able to share their knowledge and experience. Each bring something important to the table.

Arrow Updates to The Sound of Bamboo
Arrow Tai Hei Shakuhachi