NY Duo Supports Japan Relief Efforts Through Music, Missions

In March noted psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky and internationally acclaimed composer Russell Daisey traveled to Tokyo as special guests of Japanese opera singer Tomoko Shibata. The occasion was the premiere performance of their song “Towers of Light” in Japanese at the Songs for Hope Memorial Concert commemorating the one-year anniversary of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.

Kuriansky (known as Dr. Judy) and Daisey wrote “Towers of Light” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to help with the healing process. Shibata first sang the anthem with Dr. Judy and Daisey in September 2010 for the highly praised series of piano concerts for Hiroshima Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Japan during World War II) in New York City. Shibata also sang the song for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 at the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial Floating Lantern Ceremony on the Hudson River. After performing “Towers of Light” in the trio over the last few years, Shibata translated it into Japanese an renamed it “Souls Become Stars.”

On the anniversary of the tragedy in Japan, Dr. Judy and Daisey were present for a magnificent production in one of Tokyo’s most prestigious venues, Yamaha Hall. Produced by Shibata, the event was the fourth in her series of concerts, “Songs for Hope: Volume Four.” Earlier concerts in the series took place over the last year in Tokyo and New York City.

“’Songs for Hope’ is my way of keeping people’s spirits lifted through the art form I know, music,” Shibata says. “Music can help heal people’s sorrow at this sad time in my country.” Proceeds from the 3/11 concert in Tokyo went to the Ashinaga Foundation to help build a Rainbow House for children orphaned by the tragedy.

Shibata was joined by a wide array of musicians performing a variety of musical genres, from opera arias and duets to popular traditional Japanese songs and western tunes. Spanning both classical and traditional themes, the concert included a women’s singing ensemble covering Broadway and modern Japanese theatre songs, as well as music performed by celebrated cellist Hajime Mizoguchi.

In the second act of the program, “Souls Become Stars” was performed by an ensemble led by Shibata and consisting of two sopranos, flute, harp, cello, and piano. Her translation of the lyrics by Dr. Judy and Daisey evoked deep emotion about the 3/11 tragedy and hope for the future. Afterward Shibata invited Daisey and Dr. Judy to acknowledge the warm response and to address the Tokyo audience.

“Arigato gozaimasu,” Dr. Judy said to the appreciative crowd. “We thank Tomoko very deeply for inviting us to come to this amazing concert, ‘Songs for Hope,’ on this solemn night of 3/11. Tomoko is a brilliant singer and a very good friend with a big heart to care for the people of Japan. We thank her for this beautiful translation into Japanese of our song ‘Towers of Light.’ We wrote this song to help people heal after the pain of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Now, it sends our love to the people in Japan to heal after the pain of 3/11. The song is like a bridge – between Japan and America, between 3/11 and 9/11.”

“As a composer and pianist who has played for Presidents of countries,” said Daisey, “I can say that Tomoko is a world-class performing artist. All these musicians tonight are outstanding musicians who care about their country. Tomoko has sung our song ‘Towers of Light’ many times in New York, in English. So it is a pleasure to hear her in this brilliant performance of our song in Japanese. I have been to Japan many times with Dr.Judy performing at concerts for peace. This one is special to send our love and heart to Japan at this time.”

Dr. Judy and Daisy are the co-founders of the Stand Up for Peace Project (SUFPP), an initiative that promotes peace, understanding, and healing worldwide. They have performed “Towers of Light” internationally at peace festivals, United Nations conferences, Global Harmony concerts, peace seminars, and music and peace tours throughout Japan, Mexico, and Haiti, as well as at the First Hiroshima International Peace Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, for Nobel Peace Laureates the Dalai Lama and Betty Williams.

Daisey is an internationally acclaimed pianist/singer/songwriter who has played command performances for American presidents and world dignitaries, including Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and the Chiniya Lama of Kathmandu, Nepal.

Dr. Judy provided psychological first aid after the 9/11 terrorist attacks at Ground Zero and at the Family Assistance Center, as well as after other disasters, including the Asian tsunami and earthquakes in Haiti and China. She teaches psychology at Columbia University Teachers College and runs peace workshops worldwide.

The joint endeavor for peace between Dr. Judy, Daisey, and Shibata has expanded and transcended the initial inspiration of “Towers of Light” to encompass a connection between the two monumental tragedies of 9/11 and 3/11, as well as fostering healing for survivors of both catastrophes.

“As a psychologist who also works at the United Nations,” Dr. Judy said to the crowd in Tokyo on March 11, “I know how people heal through beautiful music and also through knowing that other people – from around the world – offer their support and share their love.”

Dr. Judy, Russell Daisey, Tomoko Shibata, Songs for Hope, 3/11, March 11, Japan relief

Daisey, Shibata, Kuriansky and Takuo Ikeda, chief arts critic of the Nikkei Shimbun, at Shibata's "Songs for Hope" concert in Tokyo 3/11/12

Dr. Judy and Daisey continue to lend a helping hand to the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. This Sunday, through their Stand Up for Peace Project, the duo will take part in an event in cooperation with The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, The Stewardship Report, and The Art Students League of New York.

The Art Students League of New York, one of America’s premier art schools, will unveil Baptism of Concrete Estuary, a 30-foot-long commemorative “scroll for Japan” painted in the Japanese style of ukiyo-e woodblock prints by artist Jave Yoshimoto. The unveiling will take place at The Art Students League’s Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery 215 West 57th Street this Sunday, May 20. A private preview and brunch (suggested donation $100) will be held from noon until 2:00 p.m., followed by a public opening and reception from 2:00pm to 4:00 p.m.

Dr. Judy will give the keynote address at the event, which will benefit Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief, specifically the Music & Art Without Borders program of the Japanese non-profit organization The Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi (Ganbaro Miyagi) and the Art Students League’s international scholarship program. Russell Daisey will perform original anthems written for Japan.

Dr. Judy and her partners in the Global Kids Connect Project, which is part of the UN-accredited NGO International Association of Applied Psychology, went on a mission in the disaster zone following the concert on the anniversary of 3/11. Partnering with the Recovery Assistance Center in Miyagi, her team made presentations of music, drawings, and healing exercises at several schools and resettlement housing. Children drew messages of hope on cranes that will go to children in earthquake-stricken Haiti. “Connecting children recovering from trauma lets them know that they are not alone and that others around the world care,” says Dr. Judy.

“Jave’s art is a powerful example of using the arts to heal, that is totally synchronistic with the work that I have been doing for years around the world with survivors of natural disaster,” says Dr. Judy.