Travelling to other parts of the world to taiko events and classes really opens up one's perspective.
At home, I'm only a student. Motivated and dedicated, maybe. But still just a student, the lowest level, under apprentice, under member. Not really a taiko player; more like a grade school kid ;-)
I go to Japan, and suddenly I'm a wold traveller who has total legitimacy in being interested in what the legendary teachers we meet there have to teach. I'm suddenly a taiko player. No matter where I am in my development, I am, in their eyes, a taiko player.
In our group, only the performing members have access to real drums. They pay for them, they take care of them, they own them; it's only right that they're the ones using them. The students play on practice drums that have real skins on a PVC body. When I went to ECTC, I remember that some people were extremely surprised by the fact that we don't have access to real instruments on a regular basis.
Most of the people we meet at events like ECTC are members of a group. We're the exception in that we're not members, "just students". Yet, I often find myself among the top tier of players who attend these workshops - every time, I feel surprised, first, because I'm not that good, and also because this is so different from what I experience at home.
Some of those people who are members of groups are far less advanced than even our student group is; yet most of them perform on stage, and often even get paid for their performances. Sometimes, it makes us feel lucky that we have such great teachers to make us grow. It also makes us feel like we could be trusted a bit more to perform and hold our own on stage (yes, our teachers have very high standards - I happen to think it's a good thing).
This reflection isn't meant as a critique of the way things work in my group. I keep telling people how important it is to travel, to see other perspectives, because it refocuses your understanding of your group and taiko as a whole, and it shapes your development. I don't know if being "just a students" makes people work less hard because they feel like they'll always be "just a student"; or if it motivates people to work harder because it makes them conscious of the fact that they still have a ton of things to learn.
Me? Well.... the only thing I'm certain of, is that I'm a taiko player ;-)