Woodblock print by Eisui (1790-1823)




Tai Hei
4th Annual


the Memory of
Masuda Shuho
Steve Shinraku Buchbinder

The Idea

Small Community as a Model

I have been living outside a small town in northern California’s Mendocino County since 1970. Willits — population 5,000 — is a special place with some very special people. Many of us came here as new settlers over 30 years ago, part of the “Back to the Land Movement” that emerged from the turmoil of the ‘Sixties. The idea at the time was to change the world by recovering some of the fundamental values that made this country great. The challenge was to learn new “old” skills while reinventing ourselves and our culture within an enduring context of place. As the bumper sticker says: “Create Your Own Reality”.

Three decades of hindsight have helped me understand how the idealism of youth can tarnish and wear around the edges. I also see how it can endure and blossom with hard work and a commitment to turn one’s vision into reality. For those of us who have established roots, built homesteads and raised families, our unique rural community is viewed, today, in a new light. Willits is small town, but oddly cosmopolitan, made up of people representing a wide variety of cultures, religions, political beliefs and lifestyles. Tolerance and diversity rein here and are celebrated as cultural assets much like this area’s beautiful forests, wild rivers and precious coastal resources.

Importance of Education

One of the main things bringing our diverse community together are our children and their education. With four kids passing through the Willits Unified School District, I realize how important it is to become involved in the process and support them as much as possible. This can happen in many different ways. One such way that greatly impressed me is the Awards Ceremony hosted by Willits High School at the end of each academic year. Basically, members of the community have pooled their resources to assist college-bound graduates with scholarships and other forms of financial aid to help with their continuing education. With one daughter in college and a second ready to enroll next year, I really appreciate the level of support offered by my friends, neighbors and local businesses.

Shakuhachi - Passing on the Gift

I think that our nascent international shakuhachi community outside of Japan is no different in this regard. Shakuhachi has been a wonderful gift to many of us. What better way to show our appreciation than by passing on that gift on to the next generation. With this in mind, my wife Kayo and I have decided to establish an annual scholarship for aspiring players to support their future work with shakuhachi.

The Reality


The nation’s at war. Privatization and corporate control of the economy has eliminated many government-sponsored initiatives. NGOs and volunteer organizations have emerged to take up the slack. Money is tight. Not much is earmarked in school budgets for art and music. If shakuhachi is to survive and flourish as more than an expensive hobby, the responsibility is up to us. This scholarship is a very small beginning in that direction.

Scholarship Eligibility

Tai Hei Shakuhachi is offering $1,000 scholarship annually to a deserving person or persons wishing to develop and enhance their involvement with the shakuhachi and its music. The award will be presented in whole or part to one or more applicants. This scholarship is an effort to encourage and promote interest in shakuhachi and its traditional music abroad. For this reason, it is limited to players residing outside of Japan. The scholarship is not intended for professional players or teachers of shakuhachi, but for their students and others who aspire to learn the instrument. Teachers are encouraged to inform their students about this opportunity. All others, regardless of age, gender, nationality, race, religion or group affiliation, are encouraged to apply. Applicants who have bypassed for the award can reapply as many times as possible in subsequent years. Awarding the stipend will take into account financial need as well as talent and ability of the applicant. Applicants will be asked to provide some basic information and write an autobiography. Letters of recommendation may be submitted with the application, but are not required. The name of the recipient(s) will be announced as soon as possible after the deadline for submission.

The Tai Hei Shakuhachi scholarship is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend Masuda Shuho, shakuhachi maker from Kawasaki, who passed away in 2001. It is called the Masuda Shuho Memorial Scholarship.

The Hope

Sustainable Community

It is our sincere hope that the idea and reality outlined above will flourish and grow into a significant support network for those in our community. We would very much like to see the gift of shakuhachi obtainable to others who, for reasons of need or lack of encouragement, have been unable to access it. A sustainable community is one that nurtures and supports its most precious resource — those that follow in our footsteps.

Monty & Kayo Levenson
Tai Hei Shakuhachi



We wish to thank those of you have contributed to the Scholarship Fund.

In Memory of Steve Shinraku Buchbinder - Brooklyn, NY
Bruce Stoller - Tucson, AZ
Marc Berner, Miami, FL
Robert Jonas, Northampton, MA
Tsunhin John Wong, Pittsburgh, PA

Marc Berner, Miami, FL
Clint Carlisle - Yucca Valley, CA
Darrell Hayden - Corte Madera, CA
Lin Maxwell - Oakland, CA
George Miller - Deerfield Beach, FL

Stephen Scholle - Hartsdale, NY
Bruce Stoller - Tucson, AZ
Anonymous - Tokyo, Japan
Anonymous - Brooklyn, NY

Todd Barton - Ashland, OR
Marc Berner, Miami, FL
Clint Carlisle - Yucca Valley, CA
Brian Ritchie - Milwaukee, WI
Stephen Scholle - Hartsdale, NY

Don Boone, Sebastopol, CA
Clint Carlisle - Yucca Valley, CA
Barry & Theda Levy, Napa, CA
Anonymous - New York, NY
If you are interested in the ideas underlying the scholarship and would consider a donation to expand the amount or number of awards offered, please get in touch. You can make a donation now using PayPal.

At the moment, contributions are not tax deductible as the cost to set up a non-profit corporation, coupled with the annual fees to maintain it, are prohibitive. I can, however, offer some suggestions along these lines that may be helpful, so contact me if you are thinking of making a donation.

Scholarship Recipients

2008 Scholarship Recipients

Peter Spring for the Steven Spring Foundation, Brian Yee, Jonathan Kypros & I Made Widana

Learn more about the award recipients.

2007 Scholarship Recipients

Lucinda Gaston, Ayano Ogura, Shannon Wilber, Yuko Yamamoto & James Donahue

Learn more about the award recipients.

2006 Scholarship Recipients

Scott Cairo, Prem-Steve De Young,
Darren Hull, Jeffrey B. Jones,
Marenglen Skendo, Leonel Olivares Olalde & Ariel Guerreso

Learn more about the award recipients.

2005 Scholarship Recipients

Marty Regan, Geleni Fontaine & Devyn Keith

Learn more about the award recipients.


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