Only In NOLA: 2 Years After Katrina

Words & Images by: Dino Perrucci

Wednesday :: August 29

Only in New Orleans.

Tipitina's :: 08.29 :: Instruments Have Come
It's such an oft-used expression but so completely true, never more so than this past week. New Orleans has always been a city of contrasts, and the city's recovery is no exception. August 29 marked the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While the storm itself battered the city it is very important to remember that it was the post-storm failure of the federal levee system and the complete lack of a realistic evacuation plan that almost destroyed the city. With the same leaders still in place recovery is a slow, frustrating process.

However, there are many fine people doing amazing things to bring back the city they love. Bill Taylor and Adam Shipley head up the non-profit Tipitina's Foundation. The Foundation's mission is to restore Louisiana's irreplaceable music community and preserve the state's unique musical cultures. Each year during JazzFest they hold the fundraiser "Instruments A Comin'" on the Monday between weekends. The goal is to raise money for local high school music programs. While the government has cut school funding specifically to music programs across the country, one could argue that there is nowhere more important to have music in schools than in New Orleans. For the second straight year, Tipitina's hosted the kids-focused "Instruments Have Come" on August 29, which included dueling marching bands, a presentation ceremony and the Sunday Workshop Students performing with some of New Orleans' world class musicians. And again for the second straight year, nearly a half million dollars was raised.

The evening started with the marching bands taking turns performing on a blocked off section of Napoleon Avenue in front of Tips. After a few turns, each band then took up positions on the neutral ground facing each other across Tchopatulas Street. Then it was time for a good old marching band face off. They went back and forth, blasting their finest tunes as traffic passed by on Tchopatulas Street (only in New Orleans).

Marva Wright 08.29 :: Tipitina's
Next we moved inside for the presentation ceremony. The stage was covered with all sorts of brand new instruments. After acknowledgments and thanks to those that made this event happen, it was time for the kids to take the stage and bask in the love that was afforded them. On a day like this, where so many people have so many mixed emotions and horrible memories, it's important for the people of this city to see tangible signs of hope like this event.

The first of three bands to perform on the inside stage was Marva Wright and her BMWs. The Queen of New Orleans Blues, was in fine form, mixing originals like "Katrina Blues" with covers including Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive".

Next up were the Sunday Workshop Students with Stanton Moore, Robert Mercurio, Jeff Raines (all three from Galactic), Johnny Vidacovich, Theresa Andersson and saxophonist Tony Dagradi. Each Sunday the Tipitina's Foundation hosts a free music workshop with different professional musicians where students are encouraged to bring their instruments and play along. While the set had musical highs and lows, the fact that these kids were getting a chance to perform in Tipitina's alongside world class musicians brought a smile to everyone's face.

Soul Rebels Brass Band ended the night with a high energy set. These guys are another great example of the dedication people show in coming back home. Since Katrina drove them out of the city they have been commuting from Houston for a weekly gig at Le Bon Temps.

While August 29 will never be a day of celebration in New Orleans, this annual event is becoming a very special night for the future of music in the city.

August 29 :: New Orleans

Bill Taylor and Adam Shipley
Bill Taylor and Students

Tony Dagradi and Students

Marva Wright

Theresa Andersson and Student

Robert Mercurio - Galactic

Soul Rebels Brass Band

Sunday Workshop Students

Continue reading for words and images from Thursday August 30...

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