Healing through musical relief

Music has such power to open people's hearts to share their stories, their lives, and their tears! Stories from each event last week:

Monday, May 9 - Watanoha Elementary School Shelter, Watanoha, 6 pm

Mr. Takahashi, now 84 years old, sang Japanese songs in the traditional style when he was younger. No one in the shelter had an idea he could sing until shakuhachi Bruce arrived! So many special connections with people through this event...

Tuesday, May 10 - Hiyoriyama Park, Torii Gate, Ishinomaki, 2 pm

"Can you play the Tennessee Waltz? It was my mother's favorite song." Her mother was washed away in the tsunami along with 11,000 other people in the town of Ishinomaki. So much grief and so much loss! We performed on top of a hill in front of a shrine overlooking the whole city. Throngs of people come to write their prayers and tie flowers to the fence. It was hard to concentrate as I stared out over the destruction while playing. This video is from an organ improvisation with saxophone and shakuhachi.

Tuesday, May 10 - Minato Elementary School Shelter, Ishinomaki, 5 pm

"Wait! I'll be right back!" An older gentleman ran off to his temporary home in a third grade classroom to find something. It was a shakuhachi he had made by hand but was then buried under mud in the tsunami. Bruce played it in the concert, greatly filling the man with joy and leading him to give it to Bruce as a gift.

Wednesday, May 11 - Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant, Shelter, Onagawa, 3 pm

Two month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami. At 2:46 pm a moment of silence was held to remember the victims, and then we started a concert for people sheltered in the gymnasium of the nuclear power plant near Onagawa.

Security was incredibly intense. Two days in advance, we had to give the names (and correct spelling!) of everyone who would be entering the plant along with license plate numbers for all vehicles. It took an hour to enter and an hour to leave the plant as each vehicle was checked three times and paperwork was examined thoroughly.

The atmosphere in the shelter seemed dark and depressed. Bruce called out a melody of healing on his shakuhachi from one side of the room, and Steve answered back from his saxophone on the other side of the room. Improvisatory calls and response of hope and healing mesmerized everyone in the room.

A junior high school girl was moved to pull out her flute and play for us as we left. Bruce and Steve quickly grabbed their instruments, and some women began to dance. I couldn't believe the change in mood from when we first arrived!

Thursday, May 12 - Onagawa Fitness Complex, Onagawa, 10:40 am

"After the earthquake, my husband told me to grab the kids, get in the car, and drive to high ground. He said he'd be right behind me in his truck right after he closed up the house. We never saw him again..."

So much grief and despair in Onagawa, where the wave went over 5 story buildings! By the end of the concert, over half the audience was in tears. It was the most emotional concert I've ever been involved in. One man was doubled over in grief on the floor. One woman who asked for my signature had lost both her husband and her father in the tsunami. There are no words...