Curated by
The Ponderosa Stomp Foundation

What’s the Name of your School?: Music Education Tour

This tour connects a range of sites important to the perpetuation of New Orleans music. It includes a succession of public schools in Treme: Craig Elementary, Bell Junior High, Clark High School, and John McDonogh High School, which produced artists from “Sweethearts of the Blues” Shirley and Lee to hip-hop maestro Mannie Fresh.

Some locations, like the sites of the Fisk School, the Colored Waifs Home for Boys, and McDonogh No. 35 High School, go back to the early years of jazz. At others, like Leroy Jones’ garage, Hunter’s Field, and the Treme Community Center, musical mentors laid the groundwork for the brass band revival decades later.

At private schools like Houston’s School of Music and the Grunewald School of Music, teaching artists groomed some of the New Orleans’ top talent of the rhythm and blues era, including Rock and Roll hall of famer Earl Palmer.

While Booker T. Washington High School was a stepping stone for artists from Allen Toussaint to Master P, and Jesuit High School turned out stars like Dr. John and Harry Connick, Jr., their auditoriums had musical lives of their own, hosting the likes of Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley.

To Learn More

Al Kennedy’s 2002 book Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans surveys a century of in-school music instruction. It’s based on extensive interviews by the author and rigorous archival research.

Bruce Sunpie Barnes and Rachel Breunlin’s 2014 book Talk That Music Talk: Passing on Brass Band Music in New Orleans the Traditional Way is an essential read about teaching a living tradition and the social context of brass band music. It’s a collaborative ethnography based on remarkably in-depth, personal oral histories.

Dr. Michael Torregano’s 2014 dissertation The History of Jazz Education in New Orleans: An Investigation of the Unsung Heroes of Jazz Education offers a framework for understanding various methods of teaching New Orleans music. Torregano, a musician and an educator, taps an array of archival sources and his own research.

“The Whole Gritty City,” a 2013 documentary by Richard Barber and Andre Lambertson, is an intimate look at students and teachers in three marching bands in New Orleans. By following the challenges they face outside the classroom, the film conveys the significance of the marching band tradition beyond the spectacle of Mardi Gras parades.

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