Benefit Concert with Bill Harley

Interview with Bill Harley

Bill Harley, a two-time Grammy-winning children’s musician from the United States—called “the Mark Twain of contemporary kids music” by Entertainment Weeklywill play a benefit concert at Aster Plaza in Hiroshima on the afternoon of Sunday, November 9.

All of the money from ticket sales, as well as additional contributions made at the venue, will be donated to the “Kasumi Family House,” a project to build a “family house” near Hiroshima University Hospital for families with children who are hospitalized there with leukemia and other serious illnesses. Although “family houses” exist near hospitals in many parts of Japan, no such facility is currently found near Hiroshima University Hospital, and the need is great.

Time: November 9, 2014 (Sunday), 1:30 p.m. (Doors open at 1:00 p.m.)
Place: Aster Plaza, Chuu Hall (4-17 Kakomachi, Naka-ku)
Tickets: Adults: ¥1500, Children: ¥1000 (Available at the door)
Organizer: Bilingual Monkeys (Adam Beck with Roger Reinoos)
Supporter: Hiroshima International School

In order to donate 100% of the ticket sales to this important “family house” project, sponsors and advertisers are needed to help cover the costs of staging the concert. Please click the links below for full details on how you can help. Thank you!

English information on sponsors and advertisers (PDF)

Japanese information on sponsors and advertisers

Sing with Bill Harley! If your kids would like to sing a few songs with Bill Harley at the concert—in a chorus with other children who live in the Hiroshima area—click this link for the full details! (PDF)

Interview with Bill Harley
“I’m honored to be performing in Hiroshima”

Japanese translation of Bill Harley Interview

1. I understand this is your first visit to Japan. What things are you looking forward to about this trip?
The trip to Japan is exciting for a number of reasons. First, I’ve never been to the East before, and am very much looking forward to the difference in culture. I’m very conscious of the great depth and history of Japan’s culture, and look forward to experiencing that. I’ve been interested in Japanese art for many years, especially the work of artists like Hiroshige and Japanese woodcuts, and am also interested in Noh and Kabuki theater, so I hope to get a taste of that. I understand there is a tradition of Japanese storytelling, kamishabai, using pictures as prompts, and I’m interested in how that works.

Then, too, I especially look forward to sharing with teachers—helping them think about how to teach language. As a storyteller, how people learn and use words, stories and song, in their lives is continually fascinating to me. Especially since the Japanese language is so different from ours, I’m interested in that process of translation and learning.

Also, my father-in-law traveled to Japan many times for business, and my wife grew up meeting many Japanese in her home, so she’s especially excited to be going to Japan for the first time. We have some friends we hope to catch up with when we’re there.

2. You’ll be playing a benefit concert in Hiroshima on November 9. How do you feel about performing in Hiroshima?
I’m looking forward to it. Over the many years of my work, I’ve been active in the peace movement here—in the late 1970s, I was a staff person for the American Friends (Quakers) Service Committee, working on disarmament, and accompanied an A-bomb survivor as she spoke about nuclear war and the need for peace. I’m very honored to be performing in Hiroshima.

3. In addition to the United States, what other countries have you performed in?
Almost all of my work has been in the United States. Of course, I’ve performed in Canada, too, and last year spent several weeks in New Zealand, visiting schools and performing at festivals. But while I’ve traveled overseas a fair amount, this is my first trip performing in a non-English speaking country.

4. Could you make a very rough guess as to the number of children that have seen you perform over the years?
Oh, millions. No idea. I believe I’ve probably visited over 2500 schools over the years, and that doesn’t include the thousands of public performances I’ve given. I regularly see three generations of people in performances here—the children who grew up with me now have children of their own, and the parents/grandparents, come along.

5. What qualities have you found to be universal among all these children?
While the details of our lives have changed, I find the emotional experiences are the same—so the child’s attempt to make sense of the rather confusing adult world, the fear and anticipation of what might happen, the sometimes terrifying experience of not having much power in a situation, and wonder. First time experiences are always eye-opening, and as someone who documents childhood in entertainment, a lot of my work is about those first times.

6. What is it about your songs and stories that seems to resonate so strongly with children?
Song and story is one step removed from immediate experience, and so we enter into them safely, and take from them what we need without fear of consequence. In other words, they are safe places to explore. The structure of song and story also provides us with a framework to begin to make sense of things. We can order our lives and begin to imagine who we might be through story and song. And more than just facts and figures, story and song is grounded in feeling—this is why we connect with them. We are, I believe, literally hard-wired for the experience of song and story.

7. What do you hope children experience at your performances, and take away with them as they continue their lives?
I’ve always felt that it’s my job to honor the emotional lives of children and affirm that their experiences are valid. I also want to remind them (and the adults) that we have many things in common—so tolerance and compassion underlie much of my work, even if they aren’t necessarily immediately obvious on the surface, where I use humor. In a performance, I’m trying to build a community—an ephemeral, temporary one—but a community nonetheless.

Learn more about Bill Harley by reading my review of his work, The Captivating Songs and Stories of Bill Harley, or by visiting his website.

Click on the image below to open a large image of the flyer to download and share.

Benefit concert with Bill Harley

On November 10, the day after the concert, Bill Harley will be speaking at Hiroshima JALT…

Bill Harley: Storytelling From the Beginning
In the beginning, is the story—we can add movement, voices, props, puppets, or fireworks but none are as important as the telling of the story. This workshop offers basic advice and practice in the telling of stories, with an emphasis on telling stories in your own way, appropriate to your own setting. In a whirlwind tour of the many aspects of storytelling, Bill will give insights on using personal stories, the effect and functions of storytelling in the classroom, storytelling games you can use in your class, and will offer lots of encouragement. And of course, there will be a few good stories to pass on.

November 10 (Monday), 6:00-7:30 p.m.
International Conference Center Hiroshima, 3F Conference Room (Please note that capacity is limited and seating is available on a “first come, first served” basis.)
JALT Members: Free; Non-members: ¥500; Students: ¥200
More information: