If I was a really big time blogger, I'd be going to town this week. So many cool things are happening on our Jazz Bands trip to New Orleans. Today we dropped off donated instruments to the Tipitina's foundation that will be used to help supply some needy kids here in NOLA. We also did an exchange concert with the band kids at Cohen High School.
We showed up around 2:00 and went into the band room to set up-their band kids were already there sitting around for our performance. As in any new environment, there was an air of uncertainty, but as we began to play everyone began to settle down and start to have fun. When we finally got to The Jody Grind, the Cohen students began to clap along a little bit and you could tell some of them were starting to enjoy it. At that point, we convinced some of their percussionists to join us on a Second Line groove tune. They like playing loud.. but they were having fun and enjoying it-breaking down more of those walls. Then they got up to play for us. The band is much more marching band influenced and they began to play with the biggest sound that I have ever heard 30-35 students put out, especially considering most of them have been playing less than 2 years. After 3 sitting down tunes, they begged their director, Mr. Brimmer to stand up and show some of their moves. There was great pride in what they were doing. This was the first year since Katrina that the band from Cohen was able to participate in the Mardi Gras Parades. Afterward, we had pizza and drinks for all the kids and while there was still some uncertainty, they were able to talk to each other and have some fun together. A couple of the Cohen students did some step dancing for us. Then they thanked us for coming and one of their students said "We can't end this until we pray." So we all circled up and he thanked God for our visit and for safety for us. What an emotional time-with all these people in New Orleans have gone through over the past 4 years, faith has played a huge part in helping these people through these times. We hear all the stories, but it's the pictures of the kids from after the storm that make it so real. How do you make it through this horribly tragic situation when you are 3 or 6 or 8? How has it affected them? What kind of nightmares must they have had for years afterward? Now all these students are in school, some in high school, so days like today help pull them out of the for just a little while.
After we left, the emotion of the exchange took over. I can't think of a time when I've been more proud of my students. It took me to tears. I knew I had great kids, I just didn't know how great. Yeah we have great musicians and a great music program, but there is nothing less valuable about what they are doing in their program. It's all music and it's all making the lives of these kids richer. Today it brought two groups of very different students together in a common way. And all of them walked away knowing a little more about where the others are coming from. It was an awesome day and we haven't even started building yet!