From the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation held its third annual Class Got Brass competition – an opportunity for Louisiana high schools and middle schools to compete for more than $30,000 worth of instruments – on Sunday, March 23, in Armstrong Park.
The contest is designed to support music education in the school system while also encouraging schools to promote New Orleans’ brass band tradition.
The contest was part of the foundation’s Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival.
A total of 12 schools competed, with separate categories for beginning and advanced groups.
Each of the 12 competing schools also received brand new trumpets and trombones from Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who donated the instruments.
The competitors and winners in the 2014 Class Got Brass were:
St Augustine High School - First Place, $10,000
Landry Walker High School - Second Place, $6,000
KIPP: McDonogh15 Middle School - Third Place, $4,000
Edna Karr High School
Martin Behrman Charter School
Joseph S. Clark High School
Chalmette High School
Medard H. Nelson Charter School - First Place, $4,000
Fannie C Williams Charter School - Second Place, $3,000
D.W. Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies - $2,000
Park Forest Middle School
Ridgewood Preparatory School
Those schools that didn’t finish in the top three of their category each will receive $750.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is awarding a total of $33,500 in prizes. The prizes are in the form of gift certificates the competing schools will redeem for instruments, instrument repair or other necessary supplies.
“These prizes are intended to reward our hard-working music teachers and band directors, who are struggling against great odds to provide quality music instruction in our schools,” said Anthony J. Ruda, president of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s board of directors. “We also consider them to be an incentive for the schools to promote New Orleans’ traditional brass band culture – which the kids obviously love. They were having a lot of fun out there.”
“Programs like this really get to the heart of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s mission,” Ruda added.
Each school was required to perform a dirge, a traditional song and a contemporary song. Each performed for about five minutes before a panel of judges as well as a crowed of several hundred people.
The judging panel included many of New Orleans’ top musicians and local music experts:
Ben Jaffe, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Brice Miller, Mahogany Brass Band
Christie Jourdain, Pinettes Brass Band
Dodie Simons, New Orleans music scene veteran
Gerard Howard, bandheads.org
Gregory Davis, Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Kerry Brown, musician and festival producer
Sammie Williams, Big Sam’s Funky Nation
Shamarr Allen, musician
Each contestant was scored according to five criteria:
- Adherence to tradition (Does it sound like a New Orleans second-line band?)
- Originality (How much of their own personality is in the performance?)
- Improvisation (Do the band members interact with one another?)
- Tightness (Do they sound rehearsed and together?)
- Overall presentation (Do they sound good? Do they look good? Are they having fun?)
Judges also had the option of awarding extra credit for including dancers or having an exceptionally good presentation.