Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bruce T. Kaji Interview I
Narrator: Bruce T. Kaji
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: July 28, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-kbruce-01-0013

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MN: Let me ask you about Mr. Louis, Louis Frizzell.

BK: Oh, yes.

MN: Who was he? Share with us, what was he like?

BK: Louis Frizzell was a recent graduate of UCLA music school. He was born in Shafter, California. We found that out afterwards. We come back and met his father up at Shafter, California. It's a town way up north. And his major at UCLA was music, and he came to us in Manzanar as a teacher to take over the music department. And he had a special talent. He was a single man. He was, had some physical problem. I don't know if it was a heart or whatever, but he couldn't join the armed forces. But he was tremendous in terms of musical talent. While he was at UCLA in music he wrote a musical about college life and what we did is, I think in about the third year of camp life, we experienced him getting involved in more music and drama, orchestra. At first, as the classes convened, he got them organized and got them involved in singing (in) choral groups. So he formed a lot of choral groups, different classes, and had different kinds of musicals that he created for different seasons. So he got them involved in Christmas, singing messiahs and Japanese, I don't know, Christmas songs. And he formed an orchestra and got them to play different kinds of seasonal tunes. Christmas time, he got them to play the "Toy Trumpet," and other seasonal performances. He got the choral group to sing ("America"), but it was about the history of the United States, in choral form, and it started off [sings] "In 1776 the sky was red and thunder rumbling overhead, and bad King George couldn't sleep in his bed 'cause on that fateful morn, oh, Uncle Sam was born." And he goes through this whole operetta and the whole choir sings it with different parts, and so he was very innovative, he even wrote a operetta while he was at the UCLA and got the students to perform it (in Manzanar). It was about college life and had different parts. And I wasn't part of that group. For some reason I think I had left to got to work up in Utah to make some money for college. But they performed this musical while I was gone. It was very popular and talked about college life and the people that were in class and they (...) had a problem. They wanted to do something but couldn't raise money, and then one of the graduates who was an actress and a performer, (she) comes and then they had a fundraiser and everybody participated, and they raised the money and they were successful. And the choir and the people that played the different parts, all Niseis, they put it on and did a wonderful job. And he got them excited. He got them involved. He got them to sing songs from different parts, from Australia, so he got them informed (and educated). Christmas songs, he got the orchestra to play seasonal songs. The play he wrote, he got them to also play other parts of drama, drama class. So he got them really going, and I don't think that the Niseis that were in our class would've ever been involved in any of these things had they stayed at the schools they were in, because they were too timid, or kind of reserved kind of people, not the outgoing like the Jewish kids or other kids, but they were exposed to Mr. Frizzell, who used their talents and brought it out. And I thought he did a whale of a job of keeping us involved (and participating).

MN: Well, he got you involved in the Christmas solos.

BK: Yeah, I was involved because I was playing the trumpet. We used to play, Christmas time, the "Toy Trumpet." I played the solo for that. For band, I played the solo for that. And then when we had our graduation we had three trumpet players get up there, and before the program started, dum da da dum, da da da da da da da, and then another scale up, and they had three trumpets playing different notes, but we had the fanfare for the opening ceremony. And he did so much to bring lifestyle and campstyle for our school. He was an amazing person. He also discovered special talents of our students, like Mary Kageyama, and he got her to sing in her style. And he thought so much of her that he wanted her to go to New York -- I think I might've said that before -- to perform in the musicals in New York. But at that time everybody said that that would be inappropriate because there was too much racial discrimination, and so she didn't go. But if you recall, even recently now, there was an article about Jack Su, Jack Suzuki, who changed his name to get by. But she could've maybe done that, but she didn't. But within our circle she's been singing, and amazingly her whole family sings, and so her son-in-law leads an orchestra, her daughter sings, their two sons sing, and she continues singing. We have this book signing of my book. I wrote memoirs for my kids, and you helped me, and then they said, "Well, why don't, why don't you print the book?" And now they're in the process of printing the book. They gave you a byline, too. I put, I says you got to put this young lady's name down, too. [Laughs]

MN: Let's, let's go back to you.

BK: That's alright. I'm not... just an addition.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.