NOLA music post Katrina

Posted on: January 30, 2009

In Wednesday’s (1/28) Wall Street Journal, Larry Blumenfeld writes about the January 10 reopening of the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans. “The opening concert was studded with local-hero performers, from singers Irma Thomas and Marva Wright to trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. Saturday’s ‘Evening of Music and Dance’ showcased the city’s fine resident orchestra [the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra], highlighted with performances by violinist Itzhak Perlman and principal dancers from the New York City and San Francisco ballet companies. … The celebration spilled into the next week: A Tuesday orchestra concert paired pianist-songwriter Allen Toussaint’s iconic hits with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; a Friday tribute to gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, the theater’s namesake, starred singer Yolanda Adams along with trumpeter Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.” But while musicians are coming back to the city, demand hasn’t kept up. “Since Katrina, music bookings are down by nearly half (45%), average wages by nearly one-fifth (18%). Meanwhile, costs of living have risen 11%. … ‘Historically, musicians have been taken for granted here because it’s so common and pervasive,’ said Scott Aiges, a director at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. ‘When we hear a brass band it’s just another day. But these musicians are the working poor, making an average of $21,000 a year.’ The foundation’s efforts include programs promoting musicians to international festival producers and film music supervisors.”