There were heavy hearts last October with the passing of rock ’n’ roll pioneer and local legend Fats Domino. A friend of mine and her husband joined in the 9th Ward second-line parade celebrating his life. As she described it, there was a lot of music, people and uplifting contagious energy. But what struck her most was, despite the large crowds that included all ages, races and genders parading closely together, there was a feeling of overwhelming kindness that enveloped the event. Paradegoers were united with love and respect for a man who understood the power and potential of the common denominator of music.
Internationally known for showcasing Louisiana’s musical talent since 1977, including artists such as Fats Domino, Tipitina’s owners Mary and Roland von Kurnatowski seized an opportunity to expand their reach to preserve the state’s unique musical cultures in founding the Tipitina’s Foundation in 2003. Already successfully raising funds to purchase musical instruments for local schools through the “Instruments A Comin’” event held at their club, the addition of the foundation was inspired by the von Kurantowskis’ desire to do even more to assist the music community’s needs. Currently, the Tipitina’s Foundation has four major programs supporting its mission to promote childhood music education, the professional development of adult musicians and the increased profile and viability of Louisiana music as a cultural, educational and economic resource. Programs include “Instruments A Comin’”, Sunday Youth Music Workshops, Tipitina’s Internship Program and Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Ops and are financially supported in part through federal, state, local and private foundation grants.
Boasting an incredible $3.2 million in instruments put into schools and school band programs, “Instruments A Comin’” is reaching youth throughout the state with programs in New Orleans, Shreveport, Alexandria and Lake Charles. The successful initiative has been sustainable due to extensive work by foundation staff, ensuring applicant schools are selected based on potential greatest impact and an instrument tracking policy. Sunday Youth Music Workshops invite students of all ages to have the thrilling experience of joining our area’s best musicians on the Tipitina’s stage. Playing and learning music together, a whopping 1,700 children have participated in the 275 workshops offered. Teens have access to the Tipitina’s Internship program, an after-school jazz and digital recording program under the artistic direction of Donald Harrison Jr. And statewide the Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Ops offer a network of development and job skills training centers for musicians, filmmakers, and other media professionals.
Ensure the musical culture we cherish has the resources needed by attending Tipitina’s Foundation’s 17th annual “Instruments A Comin’” fundraiser April 30. Held at Tipitina’s, the event kicks off with an outdoor festival that includes a battle of the bands by school bands, and continues with an incredible lineup of multiple groups playing throughout the night, live and silent auctions and food from top local restaurants. Most importantly, the festivity at “Instruments A Comin’” raises approximately $150,000 each year dedicated to the purchase of instruments for local school bands and band programs.
Tipitina’s Foundation is heeding the call to cultivate and preserve the music that brings us together. Roland elaborated, “As we approach the foundation’s 15th anniversary this April, Mary and I are constantly inspired by the talent and passion of the New Orleans music community and by all those near and far who support the Foundation’s mission and work.”
A little more …
Fats Domino was a long-time Tipitina’s Foundation supporter; he promoted the foundation’s CD Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats on “The Today Show,” did a PBS special and hosted a benefit at Tipitina’s.