Jazz Fest is normally the busiest time of year for New Orleans music clubs, but at one of the city’s most famous venues, Tipitina’s, it’s shaping up as a tremendously active time for hurricane recovery as well.
The charitable and economic development activities of the club’s nonprofit Tipitina’s Foundation have been in high gear since Hurricane Katrina, transforming the club itself into a focal point of recovery for the local music community. While shows go on at night, the club is home by day to the Musicians Community Center, where locals find help replacing destroyed instruments, housing information, leads on gigs and even soul food lunches prepared on site daily. In addition, the foundation has resumed its Music Co-Op Office, moving it from its flood-damaged Mid-City location to office space above Tipitina’s. As before, the co-op gives musicians access to modern office equipment and the expertise of staff and volunteers to build business skills. Since the storm, the foundation has given 500 instruments and other equipment to local musicians affected by the storm. Local legend Fats Domino has pledged the proceeds from his latest album, Alive and Kicking, to the foundation’s programs.
NEWS BEAT: Digging the giggingOn May 1, the foundation had scheduled its “Instruments A Comin’ ” event, an annual all-star concert that raises money to purchase instruments for public school bands (pictured, a presentation at P.A. Capdau Junior High School ). The event raised more than $100,000 in 2005, and foundation director Bill Taylor expects this year’s take to surpass that, with several large potential sponsors lined up but yet to be confirmed at press time.
“It’s been taken to a whole new level,” he says. “The need has always been so great, but now we have schools that benefited from it in the past that lost everything, they lost their entire band programs.”
In addition to its direct services, Taylor says that since the storm the organization has acted as a conduit between local musicians and other groups offering them help. During the week between Jazz Fest weekends, the foundation is coordinating volunteers to help repair damaged homes of local musicians, working in tandem with the Hands On Network, an Atlanta-based volunteer organization. The project is aimed at tapping the desire of New Orleans music fans visiting from around the world to help the city recover.
“The people who will support New Orleans in the long run are people who understand and appreciate the culture,” says Taylor. “I think when people get here for Jazz Fest and actually see [the plight of the city], they’ll be a vital group that can communicate to others around the country why we need their support.” – Ian McNulty