Among the myriad causes of fear and angst following the 17 breaks in three (Federal) levees back in 2005: “What is going to happen to New Orleans if we lose our musicians?” The question came in two parts. What if the 5,000 or so musicians and culture bearers that had fled the deluge never came home? That scenario, thankfully, did not come to pass, and although we are still missing some shining teeth from our music community’s smile – Henry Butler and Davell Crawford come to mind among others-- still, we need no longer lose sleep over the health of the local music scene.
The other thing I worried about in those first post-Katrina years was the future of our music incubators. After all, our school marching band system had, it seemed to me, been a guarantor of our cultural continuity. But after the flood, our schools were in disarray. Without text books, or even a functioning Orleans Parish School System, there really was no one to talk to about renewing traditions.
And yet, and yet…. there were rumblings of spontaneous grass-roots efforts to nurture back our heritage. The most notable was the inspiring vision of Derrick Tabb’s Roots of Music. But you should know that there were many more such spontaneous resurgences of our culture. Many of which are not well-known, most centering around after-school programs. Now there is hope that we are on the verge of yet-one-more renaissance, one more Rebirth. (Rejoice Danny Barker wherever you are!)
In this spirit, WWOZ introduces a twice-monthly feature called Cuttin’ Class!, in which we feature an in-studio performance of a local school or after-school band. This is an idea that has been welling up for the past year from our Community Advisory Board and one that has been dear to the hearts of our staff and volunteers forever. The magic moment arrived when ‘OZ’s Development Director, Crystal Gross, experienced first-hand the enthusiasm of a school band performing at last year’s French Quarter Fest. Coventry Health Care readily assumed the sponsorship necessary to fund the program, and voilà – Cuttin' Class. The excitement from band directors, students, parents and everyone at 'OZ involved in making Cuttin' Class a reality is palpable. A recent edition featured the Red Wolf Brass Band made up of students from Riverdale Middle and High Schools, directed by Desmond Venable. The Twitter-verse was soon atwitter: “Mr. V. is the best,” his students chirped. And listeners across the nation agreed. Said one: “Tuning in from Seattle! Y'all are rocking the joint!” Another added: “I’m feeling positive about the future of New Orleans.”
And so are we.
Yours in shrimp boots and trumpet mutes,