The above photographs are of Yoshio & Keiko Toyama with students from G.W. Carver High School in New Orleans, La. The school had a fabulous band under the instruction of Mr. Wilbur Lawrins. The Wonderful World Jazz Foundation donated instruments to the school through our "Horns for Guns" program. The school was attended by many students from 9th ward and nearby project houses. Sadly Katrina has forced a permanent closure of the school but the music lives on --- Graduates of Carver band recently started a pro brass band, the TBC Brass Band.
We recently traveled to New Orleans to play at the annual Satchmo Summerfest, then on to New York to visit the Louis Armstrong House and Museum as well as Louis' gravesite, followed by an appearance at Birdland with David Ostwald's Satchmo Centennial Band.
It was a shock to see the New Orleans hurricane-stricken areas--mile after mile--the area we hung around so much following jazz funerals and parades, visiting house parties, Baptist Churches when we were studying jazz in New Orleans back in 1968 to '73. It's so sad, but we were able to donate instruments and donations of $13,000, while we were there.
In the year since the Katrina disaster, jazz fans and amateur bands from all over Japan held benefit concerts and sent donations to us, hoping to get them to New Orleans musicians. The donations amounted to about 9,000,000 yen, about $77,000.
Many musical instruments and some letters accompanying them such as these below were sent with the donations. Since the hurricane struck New Orleans, many programs have been broadcast on Japanese TV stations and media. And many people sent their instruments to us.
I received an alto sax, a clarinet, and flutes from the son of a late pro musician who loved jazz very much. A letter from him was attached to the instruments:
My father recently passed away. He loved and played jazz. Two alto saxes, a clarinet and a flute were left by my father. One of the saxes is brand new. I also play jazz and was thinking of keeping the instruments. But I thought it does not make sense to just have the instruments sitting in a closet. Instruments need to make sounds. When I saw your article about helping New Orleans I saw a destination for my father's prized instruments. I feel so bad about all the musicians who lost so much during Katrina. I am sure my father would be so happy to know that his instruments will again make beautiful music in the city of jazz.
I received two electric basses and an electric guitar with this letter:
I saw on TV that the reconstruction of New Orleans is slow, but musicians are doing their best playing their music. I have been thinking of sending my son's instrument to New Orleans but did not know how. That's when I learned of your activities in the newspaper. My son died in January last year, he used to say his bass and guitar were his "sweethearts" (according to his girl friend). My son would be very glad if someone in New Orleans could love the instruments he loved so much and play them, instead of the instruments sleeping in my room.
I wish to visit New Orleans someday.
Music is beautiful. Isn't it?
Also I received a call from a lady who wanted to donate a trombone which belonged to her daughter. When I asked more I found out she passed away. The lady knew about our foundation's activities but she could not let instruments full of memories go, but when she read the article in The Asahi that we were bringing instruments to hurricane-stricken New Orleans children and musicians, she decided to donate.
Nippon Express kindly volunteered to ship 46 instruments to New Orleans - they've been generously helping us for almost ten years! Some of the members of our foundation who were flying with us brought the remaining instruments with them on the plane. The trombone full of memories of the deceased girl was presented to the Brass Band's trombone player at the Louis Armstrong Airport.
We are very glad we could be of some help, although not much, but nonetheless enough to lighten up the people of New Orleans just a little bit. I received an email:
Yoshio and Keiko Toyama,
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kindness and that of all the Japanese people who have sent donations and instruments to the children of New Orleans and the surrounding areas! You must know how your generosity will change the hearts and souls of all of us who have suffered through Hurricane Katrina. The outpouring of love and concern has been a healing in itself. We are from the area of Arabi, St. Bernard...home of the Wrecking Krewe and were among those whose homes received 10-14 feet of water. May God bless you and yours for everything you have given.
The Robert Bouterie Family, Meraux, LA
To Be Continued...
To view other posts submitted by Yoshio Toyama click here.
Yoshio 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" Barrett. 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.