Franco Imperial (Lake Jackson, Texas) is a member of the Audition Process Class of 1998. He joined the Artistic Staff in 2000 and became Artistic Director in 2011. Franco has composed over 20 original works for SJT and has co-created and produced collaborations with artists such as Abhinaya Dance Company (“Synergy” which won the 2011 Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music/Sound/Text ), 5-time Grammy Award-nominee John Santos, NEA Heritage Fellow Danongan Kalanduyan, artist/teacher Dan Sabanovich, The Bangerz (Ji: A Common Pulse), Epic Immersive (Swingposium, Japantown Immersive), and Aswat Ensemble (Echoes Into The Future). He is a member of the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI) and has led workshops for the North American Taiko Conference, European Taiko Conference, and Intercollegiate Taiko Invitationals. In 2010 he became an Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) Apprenticeship Program recipient. In 2014 Franco was selected to be part of World Arts West’s NextGen Leadership Group for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. In 2019 he was selected by the City of San Jose Office Cultural Affairs to be a Creative License Ambassador. He has been selected as instructor for the 2019 Pacific Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit in Los Angeles, and a speaker on Audience Engagement in 2013 and 2019 at the Engage.next Conferences in San Jose.
Franco has honed San Jose Taiko's unique style and created a voice for the current generation while honoring the group's 46-year legacy. He leads SJT in artistic projects that align with three pillars: performing art as a catalyst to move audiences from awareness to action; performing art as a way to foster connection, cultural understanding, and widespread creativity; and performing art as a way to open hearts and minds, building a more just and equitable society.