Music has finally resumed in the music room at Marrero Middle School, after a group of musical foundations teamed up to replace instruments damaged by Hurricane Ida last year.
The Guitar Center Music Foundation, Save the Music Foundation and Music Rising gave the band the new instruments in a ceremony on September 30. And the students got to debut with a performance of “When the Saints go Marching In” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
For some students in the band, this wasn’t their first time playing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Over the summer, some Marrero Middle School students and other local students recorded an album of jazz standards with the greats at Preservation Hall over the summer.
But without the bulk of their instruments, for the past year the group’s manager, Jeremy Williams, has had to stick to teaching music theory to the more than 100 Marrero students. In a Guitar Center video, he said the class just wasn’t the same.
“Music isn’t supposed to be about spreadsheets,” Williams said. “It’s an organic experience that you feel, live and do…but without an instrument, how do you do all of that?”
The school provides instruments free of charge to its music students, as nearly all students at the school are considered “economically disadvantaged by the Louisiana Department of Education.” About half of the students at Jefferson Parish College are black, 23% are white, and 18% are Hispanic.
As the band has grown over the years, Williams told Gambit last year that he and his wife had found and purchased additional instruments so more students could play.
Replacing the instruments was a team effort. Artist Josh Wingerter held a fundraiser at his gallery last November to raise money for new instruments. He contacted the Guitar Center foundation, which then gave the students a new drum line, brass instruments, and lockers in which to store their instruments. Music Rising and Save The Music Foundation also donated dozens of instruments.
“Myka (Miller, executive director of the Guitar Center Music Foundation) basically gives the whole band and every kid a new voice and a new hope,” Williams said.
Since the school reopened after Hurricane Ida, the music room is much quieter.
The last few years have been brutal for the students of the local group.