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Swing Dolphins

On July 31, the Swing Dolphins—a Japanese youth jazz ensemble—will land in New Orleans. Their arrival is part of the New Orleans-Miyagi Youth Jazz Exchange, a program that connects Japanese and New Orleans youth through a shared love of music. During their visit, the New Orleans public will have multiple chances to enjoy the talents of these young musicians. The Swing Dolphins will give performances at WWL-TV studios, Satchmo Summer Fest, the Steamboat Natchez landing, and Tipitina’s Uptown.

The goal of this exchange is to further develop connections between the musicians, strengthen ties between the two regions, and empower the students from both countries with enriching musical experiences they can draw from throughout their lives.

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The New Orleans-Miyagi Youth Jazz Exchange is rooted in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated large areas of Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan. Touched by painful parallels following Hurricane Katrina, Tipitina’s Foundation turned sympathy into action with the help of long-time jazz advocates Yoshio and Keiko Toyama of the Wonderful World Jazz Foundation. Tipitina’s Foundation expanded the reach of the Instruments A Comin’ program with instrument donations to two young Japanese bands who had lost everything in the tsunami. One group was the Swing Dolphins. Only one month after losing their instruments and their hopes of playing music, they had new instruments in hand.

The Toyamas dreamed of developing the relationships that had been building through years of instrument donations from Japan to New Orleans, and now between New Orleans and Japan, by giving the students who received these instruments the opportunity to play together. In October 2012, this dream became a reality when Tipitina’s Foundation, Wonderful World Jazz Foundation, and Japan Foundation teamed up to make the New Orleans-Miyagi Youth Jazz Exchange a reality. The first portion of this program brought eight Tipitina’s Interns and eight O. Perry Walker students to Japan to share New Orleans’ music with Japanese audiences, immerse themselves in Japanese culture, and interact with Japanese students who had also experienced tragedy and found solace in music.

Now the Foundation will complete the New Orleans-Miyagi Youth Jazz Exchange by bringing all nineteen members of the Swing Dolphins to the United States to experience the unique music and culture of New Orleans and cultivate relationships with the students who travelled to Japan. In addition to public performances, they will participate in exchange workshops with Martin Behrman Charter School, Tipitina’s Interns and O. Perry Walker students, and peer musicians in Lafayette.

This program is funded by TOMODACHI’s Fund for Exchanges through generous contributions from Toyota Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Hitachi, Ltd.

Local support for this program has been provided by Tidewater, Inc., Joe W. & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, Lakeside Toyota, Zen-Noh Grain Corporation, Hyatt Place New Orleans, and Acme Oyster House.

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