In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Harry Connick and Branford Marsalis vowed to see that New Orleans musicians affected by the storm would get long-term help. Six years of their hard work and the cooperation of hundreds of others are about to make a tangible difference in the city's musical community and beyond. A new center named in honor of Ellis Marsalis (pictured)father of four famous sons in jazz and teacher of hundreds of musiciansis officially open and will be in full swing in the fall. In today's New Orleans Times-Picayune, Keith Spera writes:
Were it not for Hurricane Katrina, there would be no Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.
I was guilty of the same thing our city has been guilty of for 100 years: Resting on our traditions and thinking everything is going to keep on going status quo," Connick said. No one thought there would be a storm that would put the city under water. No one thought that the musical traditions would ever be in jeopardy.
The storm really opened up a lot of dialogue."
In the storm's wake, housing was a more pressing concern. Connick and Marsalis partnered with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to develop the Musicians' Village for musicians and others. From the outset, Connick said, the vision included a performing arts/community center.
The 72 single-family homes in the Village were built by thousands of volunteers. Habitat financed construction with donations and low-interest loans to the homeowners.
In a few weeks, the halls of the Marsalis center will ring with the music of its first class of students. To read Spera's entire story, click here.
To see and hear Ellis Marsalis perform with his sons Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and Wynton, play this video.