As a national relief effort to bring food, water, and shelter to the residents of New Orleans begins, the recovery of its lost culture must soon follow. The entertainment, cuisine, and joidevivre of this city has literally washed away.
Thanks to 28 years of employment by the New Orleans Jazz Festival I’ve come to know and love the musicians of this city, and the spice they bring to performances and recordings heard all over the world. Along with their homes, most have lost their instruments and equipment.
On Wednesday, August 31 I heard from Juan LaBostrie, life-long resident of New Orleans and my assistant at the Festival. After two days in seven feet of water he succeeded in relocating to western Massachusetts, and we began planning our personal response to this tragedy. While encouraged by the flow of money into the Red Cross for basic needs, we decided that a specific effort was needed to help the city’s musicians.
It’s a simple economic equation: once a musician has an instrument in his hands, he can get back to work. Little economies will spin up around each instrument, in all the relocation cities. Money for the long trip home can be earned, and the soul of New Orleans will be saved.
Juan and I have chosen the piano as the namesake for our fund-raising effort; from Tuts Washington to Fats and Dr. John, it symbolizes the many genres "born and raised" in New Orleans.
This fund will be administered by Juan, a soundman, producer, recordist and networker who knows the New Orleans music scene from the inside out. Thanks to our associates at JazzFest, we also know where many of the musicians are, right now. Very few have more than the clothes on their backs. With an instrument in their hands they can begin to rebuild their lives, and the culture of New Orleans.
John "Klondike" Koehler