Following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, Yoshio Toyama collected funds in Japan to help replace instruments in New Orleans schools. Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Tipitina's Foundation repaid the favor, sending funds to replace instruments lost by Japanese youth in areas affected by flooding.
WWL-TV's Eric Paulsen accompanied eight O. Perry Walker High School students and eight Tipitina's Foundation interns, along with their director Donald Harrison Jr., on an October 2012 trip to Japan to meet the students who benefitted from the replaced instruments. It's the subject of a half-hour documentary, Tragedy to Triumph: The Musical Bridge Between New Orleans and Japan, airing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on WWL-TV. At each stop, the O. Perry Walker Chosen Ones Brass Band and the Tip's interns jazz band performed at concerts and festivals, and lineups also included Japanese bands that had received instruments. Those groups included the Swing Dolphins from Kesennuma. (The Swing Dolphins visit New Orleans next weekend and will perform at the Satchmo SummerFest Saturday at the Old U.S. Mint and at Tipitina's at 3 p.m. Sunday.)
(The above video of the Swing Dolphins is not from the documentary. The trailer is on the WWL site here.)
In the smaller cities of Ishinomaki and Sendai, the New Orleans students met Japanese students and music provided a bridge across the cultural divide as the Americans learned to slurp soba noodles at noodle shops and the Japanese students tried their hands at second-lining. The final leg of the trip was to the 32nd annual Satchmo Fest in Tokyo. The music helps lift spirits in communities still rebuilding and it looks at the experience's affect on local students and their lives at home.