Shihan (Master Instructor)
Grant "Sandaa" Murata
Master Grant Murata is the founder, President and Artistic Director of Ryukyu Koten Ongaku Afuso Ryu Gensei Kai, Hawaii Chapter and President of Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai USA. Murata Sensei first studied Ryukyuan (Okinawan) folk music (Minyo) at the age of 12 under Master Henry Masatada Higa of the Higa Masatada Koten Minyo Club. In 1981, he earned his teaching certificate from Higa Sensei and began teaching. Two years later he established the Sansei Minyo Kenkyu Kai. Continuing his uta-sanshin training, in 1984 he furthered his knowledge of Okinawan classical music (Koten) under Japan's National Treasure, Grand Master Choichi Terukina Sensei. By 1994, he established the Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Gensei Kai Hawaii Shibu and in 2007, Murata Sensei achieved the highest level of teaching certification, Shihan or master instructor.
Master Kenton Odo started his uta-sanshin journey in college with a desire to learn about his Okinawan background. Being a fourth generation Japanese (father's side) - Okinawan (mother's side) American, he only identified himself as a Japanese American in his formulative years. Curiosity about his Okinawan roots only intensified when Odo Sensei was given his grandfather's sanshin after his first lesson with Master Grant Murata Sensei. Uta-sanshin became a means for Odo Sensei to discover his roots and learn about the Okinawan culture. In March 1993, Odo Sensei was the recipient of the Okinawa Prefectural Scholarship and studied at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Fine Arts. Upon completion of the scholarship, Odo Sensei remained in Okinawa to study directly from Grand Master Choichi Terukina Sensei until November 1996. During these invaluable years, Odo Sensei was groomed for and performed in numerous events in mainland Okinawa and took him as far as Ishigaki, Okierabu, Fukuoka, and Osaka. In 1997, he was awarded the title of Denshoosha - Okinawa Prefectural Intangible Cultural Asset, Official Keeper. He is a virtuoso in Okinawan music having achieved proficiency in both the uta-sanshin and kuucho (bowed string instrument). Odo Sensei passed Saikosho (top level certification exam) for classical uta-sanshin in 2007 placing first. He along with June Nakama Sensei and Calvin Nakama Sensei were the first foreigners to pass Saikosho for classical uta-sanshin. Odo Sensei was awarded his Shihan certificates for uta-sanshin in 2010 and kuucho in 2020, under Grand Master Choichi Terukina Sensei and Master Grant Murata Sensei.
June Uyeunten Nakama
In 1970 at age 5, Master June Nakama started learning Okinawan dance under Grand Master Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone Sensei of Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi no Kai Nakasone Dance Academy. At the age of 26, she started learning to play sanshin under the tutelage of Grant Murata Sensei. Nakama Sensei was an Okinawa Prefecture Government Decendents Scholarship Recipient in 1992 and studied Japanese language at Ryukyu University. In 1994 she received another scholarship to study classical uta-sanshin at the Okinawa Prefectural University for Fine Arts. While on scholarship, she studied classical uta-sanshin with Grand Master Choichi Terukina Sensei, and Ryukyu dance with Azama Sumiko Sensei.
Nakama Sensei passed Saikosho (third level certification exam) for classical uta-sanshin in 2007 placing 3rd in overall ranking. At that time, she along with Master Kenton Odo Sensei and Calvin Nakama Sensei were the first foreigners to pass Saikosho for classical uta -sanshin. Musically multi-talented, she passed the Shinjinsho (first level certification exam) for Okinawan bamboo flute (fue) in 2015. Nakama Sensei was awarded her Shihan for uta-sanshin in 2014.
At the age of 10, Sean Sadaoka Sensei was introduced and encouraged to learn uta-sanshin by his cousin Master June Nakama Sensei who along with Master Grant Murata Sensei were in the process of forming the Afuso Ryu Ongaku Gensei Kai Hawaii Shibu. Sadaoka Sensei took an immediate liking to the sanshin and played casually for the next several years primarily playing Okinawan Minyo (folk) music. The turning point came in 2007 when the late Tomoyuki Terukina Sensei, traveled from Okinawa to Hawaii to teach Afuso Ryu members. Terukina Sensei and Sadaoka Sensei formed an immediate bond and it was at this point that he became a serious student of Okinawan Koten (classical) music. In 2017, Sadaoka Sensei devoted himself to testing for Saikosho (third level certification exam) proficiency and, following in the footsteps of his Senpai Master Kenton Odo Sensei, received the highest score of all aspiring Saikosho candidates. As a result, Sadaoka Sensei was invited back to Okinawa for Geinousai where he was featured in a solo performance along with top scorers from other venues to include dance, koto, fue and kucho. Sadaoka Sensei was awarded his Shihan for uta-sanshin in 2020.
Master Ryan Nakamatsu was first introduced to Okinawan culture and music at a young age when his sister began taking Okinawan dance lessons under Grand Master Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone Sensei of Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi No Kai Nakasone Dance Academy. Nakamatsu Sensei began playing uta-sanshin in 1998 under the instruction of Masters Grant Murata, Kenton Odo, and June Nakama. Nakamatsu Sensei moved from Hawaii to Los Angeles in 2008 where he began practicing with a small group of Afuso Ryu members. In 2010, Nakamatsu Sensei received his uta-sanshin teaching certificate and officially began the Los Angeles chapter of Afuso Ryu Choichi Kai. In 2011, Japan's National Treasure, Grand Master Choichi Terukina Sensei presented Nakamatsu Sensei with the title Denshoosha (official keeper of the art of Afuso Ryu classical style uta-sanshin) from the Okinawan prefectural government. Nakamatsu Sensei passed Saikosho (third level certification exam) as a top scorer in 2019 and was awarded his Shihan certificate in 2020.