New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.

Funding Received: 2012
New Orleans, LA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 5, 2013

The Pinettes, an all-woman brass band, at Treme Fest; photo by Eric Simon

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is renovating the building next door to its offices into the Jazz & Heritage Center: a 12,500 square feet space for arts education, community activities, and performing arts. The 19th-century building is currently undergoing major renovation to prepare it for its many uses. So far, the interior has been gutted and all asbestos has been removed from the walls. Workers are currently scraping paint from the exterior of the building and pouring concrete to lay a stable foundation.

As construction carries on, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation has been busy with two major festivals: the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (Oct.  18-20) and the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival (Nov. 9-10). Both festivals brought out thousands to public New Orleans parks. Jonny Lang headlined the Blues & BBQ Fest and there were 14 different types of BBQ, hailing from the Carolinas to Kansas City, available from our food vendors. Treme Gumbo Fest also had a food focus. This year, in addition to the traditional gumbo dishes that are served up, we partnered with PETA and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation to offer a variety of vegan gumbos for our often-overlooked vegan and vegetarian patrons. We were thrilled to see so many people out at Louis Armstrong Park, a relatively new outdoor performance space.

Recent Wins
-       Jan Ramsey, editor of Offbeat Magazine, credits the Jazz & Heritage Foundation with bringing vibrancy to Armstrong Park in her weekly blog.

-       We’ll be hosting a new exhibit by the New Orleans African American Museum, which is undergoing its own renovations and is currently being housed within Jazz & Heritage Foundation offices. The exhibit will feature the works of EPaul Julien, a New Orleans photographer who has chronicled a number of evocative scenes -- Louisiana musicians, cemetery scenes, architectural views and romanticized swamplands -- using both traditional and innovative photographic processes.

-       A party held to celebrate the Jazz & Heritage Foundation and the Heritage School of Music was a great success, with many of New Orleans’ philanthropic community coming out to show support. Communicating the Foundation’s non-Jazz Fest activities is always a challenge, so the party was a chance to introduce people to our work in the community while enjoying New Orleans jazz standards by piano legend Henry Butler.

The next event in the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series will be a major symposium on the topic of getting music education back into the public school system. As in many places, New Orleans has seen music instruction removed from classrooms amid budget cuts and curricula that emphasize standardized testing at the expense of arts. Meanwhile, numerous studies have documented the scholastic benefits of including the arts (especially music) in the curriculum: improvements in attendance, grade point average, standardized test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment and much more. Additionally, teaching music and art helps students learn to deal with adversity and to think creatively – skills that are essential to the modern economy. If we don’t teach our kids music, we fail to prepare them for the job market. Speakers from school districts around the country will share their experiences in correcting a historic wrong and returning music education to the classroom. The event is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The symposium is presented in partnership with Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.