It's Mardi Gras time in New Orleans. It is sad that once in a while we get emails or letters from some of our friends from New Orleans telling us that they have moved to some other town, that the levees aren't right and they can't risk the safety of their family. I hope they all are having a big Mardi Gras this year to have fun and forget the hardship for a while.
This blog, Beyond Katrina, had a little article on Martin Luther King Charter School. Last year in August when we visited New Orleans with Japanese Jazz fans, we brought with us many instruments for school and musicians who lost instruments in the hurricane. One of the alto saxes belonged to a late father of a Japanese gentleman.The Late father was a jazz musician and the son decided to donate his father's instrument to the Wonderful World Jazz Foundation. This story was featured in an article at Asahi.com. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"The Wonderful World Jazz Foundation held a series of charity concerts, at which they asked members of the audience to donate musical instruments and money in response to the [Hurricane Katrina] crisis. They were given about 60 instruments. Four, in beautiful condition, came from a man in Aichi Prefecture. He also included a note that read: "My father, a bandsman, passed away last year. His saxophone and flute need to be played to be kept alive. Please place these instruments in the holy land of jazz--a place that my father used to dream of." Once in New Orleans, Toyama plans to approach a radio station to share the story of the Aichi bandsman, and to find new homes for the man's musical treasures. '"We want to encourage not only the children but also the city itself to help recover from the damage from the hurricane,' Toyama said".
A musician who received this instrument is a
band instructor for M L King Charter School, Mr. Alonzo Bowen. And from Mrs.
Miki Rohbock we found out he is wishing to have their children participate in
Mardi Gras 2008. Miki is a beautiful Japanese lady and a very, very capable tour
guide who has a
tour company MIKAZUKI CONNECTION. She is married to Steven Rohbock, a Jazz Pianist of New Orleans, and unfortunately their home in Lakeview was totally damaged by Katrina and they are now living in Chicago. But Miki is in good spirits and she comes down to New Orleans all the time to guide delegate groups from the Japanese Government along with members of the Japanese Press and Media/ She is now famous among the Japanese media as "Hurricane guide Miki"! By the way, Miki and her husband Steven were featured in an article at The Daily Texan, Making a New Life from Chaos.
Miki is originally from the town of Sendai, Miyagi a prefecture, in northern Japan. After Katrina she went home for a visit, and appeared in many TV and Radio programs of her town's local stations. Also right after Katrina, a gentleman in Sendai, Mr. Takao Sasaki got in touch with us and told us he'd gotten Jazz Band Dolls like the ones you see see in the souvenir shops in New Orleans at very low prices. He suggested that he'd like to sell them for New Orleans and donate the sales to our Wonderful World Jazz Foundation to send it to the musicians of New Orleans. Our activities along with Miki's media appearances brought the hurricane damage to the attention of the people of Sendai. As a result the Town of Sendai's famous Jazz Festival, Jozenji Street Jazz Festival 2006, had a big Save New Orleans Campaign in cooperation with Mr. Sasaki and his Jazz Band dolls!!
Above, Mr. Alonzo Bowen and Mr. and Mrs. Kaname Nishimura of Aichi who donated instruments
Another town Utunomiya ( which is also famous for Jazz due to the fact that a couple of jazz musicians were born or grew up there) has been continuing a Save New Orleans Campaign as well. Utunomiya advertises their town as "Jazz Town Utunomiya" as Mr. Sadao Watanabe was born there and I grew up there also. We have been told these two cities, along with another town, the ski resort Madarao, (where up until a few years ago they hosted New Port Jazz Festival, Japan) want to support our foundation's wish to help the children of Martin Luther King Charter School Band, and Mr. Alonzo Bowen's desire to participate in Mardi Gras 2008. They have indicated a desire to help us at the upcoming festivals. We do not know how much help we can get right now, but there will be some help from Japanese Jazz Fans for the children of New Orleans Ninth Ward! We've decided to donate $ 5000 from the Wonderful World Jazz Foundation for the M L King Charter School Band for the instruments, and it will be sent to Mr. Bowen soon.
Mr.Sasaki's Jazz Band Dolls
The two Photographs above are of Miki Rohbock's home town Sendai, Jozenji Street Jazz Festival
Last year when we visited New Orleans ,we brought 54 instruments for donation to schools and musicians, and we received an email from my friend from the 1970's, band instructor and fabulous jazz musician Mr. Joseph Torregano of East St. John High School of Reserve, La. To the school we donated 37 instruments and $2000 for their goal to attend the Cotton Bowl 2007. I received an email from Joe, who said the band made it to the Cotton Bowl! An excerpt of the email is as follows:
"The East St. John High School Marching Wildcat Band has returned from Dallas after participating in the 2007 A. T. & T. Cotton Bowl Music Festival. Our first day was a horrible weather day with very intense rainstorms, and several tornadoes in the Texas-La. area. Our field competitions were cancelled and re-scheduled for the next night. The band won an award in every entered event:
Field Show Marching Competition - 3rd Place
Concert Band - Honorable Mention
Parade Competition - Honorable Mention
Drum Line Competition - 3rd Place.
The kids got a nice reception from the citizens of Dallas at the parade, and got to enjoy themselves at the Six Flags Theme Park . They also performed in a pre-game and half-time combined band made up of over 1,600 high school musicians. Thanks to all of you for assistance.
East St. John High School Band with Mr.Joe Torregano
We would like the People in United States to know, a lot of Japanese Jazz
Fans want to say a Big Thanks to New Orleans and to the USA for giving us and
the world such a beautiful present called Jazz. We all are wishing
New Orleans and all the hurricane devastated areas will get back swinging strong ,
like the New Orleans Jazz Beat again. We are also hoping our help from abroad, however small, will call some attention in the United States for the help that is needed in the devastated areas in a way.
Wishing you a Swingin' Mardi Gras,
Yoshio and Keiko Toyama
To view other articles and stories by Yoshio Toyama, follow this link.
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.
Copyright, Yoshio Toyama.