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The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is converting the building next door to its offices – a former funeral home built in the 19th century – into a performance hall, music school, and community center. The renovated building will mix the best of old and new: the front half’s structure, façade and interior details will be preserved while the back half will be rebuilt from the ground up into a modern, elegant performance space. Construction is expected to start before the end of the year and the Foundation plans to have the Jazz & Heritage Center up and running by Fall 2014.

ArtPlace recently spoke with Executive Director Don Marshall about the partnerships and relationships that make this project work.

ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

MARSHALL: We’ve been lucky to work with many of the arts organizations in New Orleans to carry out programming over the years. And we’re constantly collaborating with local musicians and artists. Our programming, especially our festivals and music school, depends on it. One person who has been essential to the Jazz & Heritage Center project is Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Troy is a rising star who just happened to grow up down the street from the Jazz & Heritage Center. He represents everything that’s so wonderful about this neighborhood and is an example of the opportunities we want to extend to all young New Orleanians with our programming.

Troy began his long history with us nearly two decades ago through the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music. He came to us in 1997. You can see him in the photo above at our Tremé neighborhood festival, where the Heritage School band took the stage. He comes from a family of musicians and began marching in second line parades at age 6 when he was no bigger than his trombone – hence the name. The Heritage School gave him a solid foundation in music fundamentals and introduced him to his lifelong teacher and mentor, Kidd Jordan, a legend in music education and the Artistic Director of the Heritage School. From the Heritage School Troy went on to attend the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts where Kidd was teaching at the time. Now he’s 26 years old; he’s headlined Jazz Fest – pictured on the right-hand side, above; he’s toured around the world with musicians from Lenny Kravitz to the Neville Brothers to his own Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; he’s appeared on late night TV, HBO’s Tremé, Monday Night Football. He’s done quite well, to say the least.

Now what does this have to do with our project? The wonderful thing about Troy is that he is still invested in his neighborhood. His family still lives down the street. He’s committed to the Jazz & Heritage Center and has been our foremost spokesperson and our shining example of what we hope to accomplish through the work that we do. He also helps to tell the story of the many interrelated organizations and people that are working to promote culture and vibrancy in New Orleans. It really is a network of resources that go into creating the opportunities that Troy took and ran with. First, of course, is family, which has long been the dominant method for passing along musical traditions in New Orleans. That doesn’t work for all kids interested in music, though, since not all of us are lucky enough to come from a musical family. That’s why we’ve recruited musicians from some of the leading music families in New Orleans – Kidd Jordan included – and set them up at the Heritage School of Music, where young people can benefit from their knowledge and expertise regardless of background. At the Heritage School we emphasize fundamentals and music theory. Those skills lead to a more intensive music program like NOCCA, which readies its students for a career in music. Then there are the many festivals that take place in New Orleans and often give local musicians a platform to leap onto a national stage. Troy certainly took full advantage of his performances at Tremé Fest, Jazz Fest, and French Quarter Fest to gain attention and build and audience for himself. He knows how to entertain and that’s why he’s done so well. Now he’s putting New Orleans music back into the spotlight and reinterpreting it for younger listeners. He’s creating an audience for all the up and comers from New Orleans, musicians who are where he was five years ago. And, like I mentioned before, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. That’s why he’s moving our initiative forward both as a spokesperson for the Center, and as a broader champion of our New Orleans culture and music.

ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?

MARSHALL: I have two criteria for a good partnership: the first is that partnerships, even when they’re between organizations or companies, are between people. There has to be some personal connection between people on both sides of the partnership. Otherwise, it won’t last, or it won’t be a priority for those involved. The second is that the best partnerships are built on relationships that have real and lasting benefits for both parties. You want to be able to look back at the relationship’s history and feel like both sides have benefited. That’s where we are with Troy, and we look forward to seeing where the partnership goes in the future.

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