Preservation Hall Kids, 1999
We started sending horns for children of New Orleans, when we saw them with out instruments. ( It was puzzling to me that kids living in the birthplace of jazz had either beaten up instruments or none at all???) The schools used to have good instruments 35 years ago when we lived there, I know for I've seen lots of school bands with shiny horns marching at Mardi Gras.
When we started our foundation, fans of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans Jazz, New Orleans - Pop's birthplace - was one of the most dangerous towns in the USA. A Japanese student, Yoshihiro Hattori was shot to death in Baton Rouge in 1994. Louis Armstrong Park got so dangerous foreign tourists were shot to death there. In the neighbourhoods where we used to follow Jazz Parades (the sane way), at the entrance of the schools (elementary all the way to highschools) you would see "NO DRUG NO GUNS" signs just like traffic signs.
We made up our mind to do something, and decided to use the message " Horns for Guns" as our foundation's main mission, as well as to enjoy Satchmo's music.
I was born in 1944, my wife Keiko in 1942, and we grew up with Jazz. Our generation had to live through the hardest times after World War II, but we were saved by the happy swing of Jazz, the biggest cultural aids from USA, as well as economical aids from your country. Also, a big part of our generation had the good fortune to have the highest education through your country's study abroad programs, such as Fulbright. We also were able to have rich life growing up having chances to enjoy all kinds of American culture such as Hollywood films and so on. We, ourselves had a chance to learn jazz in Birthplace of Jazz!!! And every body was so kind including jazz fans, and "Old Timer" Jazz Musicians who were from the same generation with Louis.
I'll never forget when we arrived at Port of New Port, Los Angeles, by immigrant boat "Brazil Maru" which was the most inexpensive way to go to the USA. ( It was unbelievably expensive in the 360 yen to a dollar days -On our salaries of 17,000 yen a month the cost was 100,000 yen one way). Before coming to Los Angeles , we did not know there wasn't any transportation like what we have in Japan - no trains and buses, so when we first arrived we had to sit on our suitcases and think.
I had a phone number for an Los Angeles jazz club member so I called them. Members of Southern California Jazz Society took us strangers in like we were their family, just because we loved jazz and pops (Louis Armstrong), and because we were going to New Orleans to study jazz. They took us to New Orleans square in Disneyland to listen to Teddy Buckner's Jazz Band play. Buckner looked just like Louis Armstrong. It is unbelievable that we got the job playing the same spot in Tokyo Disneyland 20 years later! They took us on an overnight trip to Palm Springs for the jazz party there. After a week of being treated like VIP's there were lots of tears as we prepared to leave for New Orleans.
The next morning when we woke up, they had gone to work leaving us two strangers in their house, and they even left $10 on kitchen table for us to spend!! Many Japanese--- musicians, scholars, politicians, business men, restaurant owner, artists have this kind of experience from generous American people, and they all wants to say THANKS to USA.
When we started "Horns for Guns" we were starting to feel the USA we all knew was changing and we felt a little sad about that for the people in the USA had not changed - it was still the same happy, generous, great people. I wanted them to know WE Japanese want to Say Thanks to USA, and also we wanted people who live in danger of guns and drugs to remember Louis Armstrong's life. Armstrong learned to play the trumpet in a home for wayward boys and then went on to become the greatest musician ever.
When we started concerts for Hurricane Katrina, our activities were covered by many Television stations and newspapers as they've known about our past activities in sending horns to New Orleans. As a result, many people, bands, festivals, and jazz organizations from all all over Japan have sent us donations.
To Be Continued...
To view other posts by Yoshio Toyama click here.
Yoshio Toyama and his wife Keiko apprenticed for 5 years at Preservation Hall in New Orleans, "hanging out" with the likes of Percy Humphrey and "Sweet Emma Barret" Yoshio's playing and singing style is influenced by the musical legacy of the legendary Louis Armstrong. The couple are currently sending musical instruments and donations from Japan to aid in Katrina recovery through their Wonderful World Jazz Foundation.