In part two of our special report, Playback explores how the Gulf Coast musical community is coping one year after Hurricane Katrina and how the power of music is helping to heal the soul of the region.
By Jin Moon
Elvis Costello was among many top artists who performed at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which drew almost 80,000 thousand fans a day in a show of valuable support for the city's post- Hurricane musical life.
Photo by Zack Smith
More than a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, many residents are struggling to resume a semblance of their former lives. Because music is the lifeblood of so many people in New Orleans and the surrounding area, the effort to revive the music community is so important to the region's overall recovery. In this second part of a special report, Playback takes a look at a music store, an ASCAP member's personal experience and how ASCAP employees have contributed in their own way in helping out with the region's musical recovery.
LOUISIANA MUSIC FACTORY
One of the first record stores to re-open and feature live music again after Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Music Factory has been keeping the spirits of the community up with their weekly in-store performances.
"We're an independent store that specializes in local music so there is a sense of community," said owner Barry Smith. "A lot of the musicians and fans come to the store on a regular basis. They know that we have music every Saturday so it's definitely kind of a meeting place. Certainly when we first started doing the shows again a lot of people came and met up with friends and musicians that they hadn't seen since Katrina."
Shannon McNally performing live at the
Louisiana Music Factory.
Brian Stoltz performing at the
Louisiana Music Factory
Smith, who has been running the Louisiana Music Factory for nearly 15 years, says that Katrina has definitely hurt the Crescent City scene. "The music community is certainly smaller unfortunately at this point with so many of the musicians displaced," he said. "But definitely more and more is happening, and people are finding their way back or at least being able to come to town to play gigs."
Even though the Big Easy recovery seems to be slow, Smith definitely sees hope in the future. "It was definitely a really positive, almost spiritual scene with people just being grateful that they were back and able to see music and appreciating what we could've potentially lost," he said. "There's definitely a lot happening. Not as much as there was before all of this but I really think in the long run it's going to come back as long as people can get housing back up and running and people can move back to town and have places to stay."
During the storm, the Louisiana Music Factory counted itself lucky, escaping the hurricane with little damage. "I feel very fortunate at this point because we're managing to hang in there while a lot of other businesses are really struggling with the lack of tourists and people in town," said Smith. "We're holding our own just because music is a positive thing, and people are definitely responding to it."
As in many cases, when there is tragedy, there is inspiration for new music. "There have actually been a lot more new releases than I ever would have thought initially when this had happened," said Smith. "But it's really kind of gotten the creative side of the musicians going so there's been a lot of new releases and just a lot of interest in the music in general."
MUSICPRO & HURRICANE KATRINA
Countless musicians were hit hard with the destruction imposed by Hurricane Katrina. In the first 60 days, MusicPro Insurance, which was created in 2000 by ASCAP and Sterling and Sterling, paid music professionals affected by Katrina over $100,000 for their instrument and equipment losses. Playback talked with a couple of MusicPro ASCAP members whose musical careers were salvaged by MusicPro Insurance. Here is another story of one member's experience.
Ken Davies, a classical composer and trombone player, was about seven miles from the Gulf Coast when the storm came in. He boarded up his home and personal studio and gathered up his valuable equipment like computers, keyboards and his trombone. He didn't expect any major damage to happen.
"In our case, there was no reason to expect any kind of water damage unless the wind blew the roof off or something," he said. "Since it was a hurricane not a tornado, we weren't expecting anything of that magnitude. We were expecting maybe a tree blowing against the house, but the last thing we were expecting was water. We had boarded up our house and made it as secure as we could."
But water did flood in, a mixture of salt water from the ocean, rain water and swamp water from the bayou that was only a block away from his home. "From the standpoint of instruments, some of the things on my rack were low enough to get touched by the water," said Davies. "To make the story fairly short, 20 to 30 foot waves hit the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Louisiana. It took out blocks of buildings pretty much across the board. We're talking about people's houses, where they were left with nothing but slab and all of their possessions floated away somewhere."
When it came time to collect insurance on his damaged equipment and software, Davies found MusicPro easy to deal with and very helpful. "They were wonderful people to work with," he said. "It was quick and easy. It seemed as though a lot of the people involved had a good grasp of instruments and a good grasp of electronic equipment."
Davies says that if he didn't have MusicPro, he would have been "miserable" because he wouldn't have been able to rebuild his personal studio as quickly as he did. With the insurance money, he was able to get back on track making and recording music within a few months!
For more information on Ken Davies, please visit www.kendavies.net.
ASCAP EMPLOYEES FOR RELIEF FUND
ASCAP first started the ASCAP Employees For Relief Fund after one of our own employees, Jane Simpkin, passed away in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. We came together to grieve and heal with music and produced an annual fundraising event called the Employees For Relief Talent Show. Each year, we have raised thousands of dollars for charity, giving to many needy music-related organizations and causes.
Last year, in light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, ASCAP raised and donated over $40,000 for organizations like the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund, Tipitina's Foundation, New Orleans Musicians Clinic, The Jazz Foundation and the Loyola University Music Department. In one special circumstance, we gave $5,000 to the Bay High School Tiger Pride Band in Mississippi to help them replace damaged or stolen equipment due to Hurricane Katrina.
"Two months after the storm, Bay High School once again opened its doors to a greatly reduced student population. For many, this represented the first return to a familiar routine� but not for Tiger and members," said Catchie Crider, Bay High's Director of Bands. "All instruments, equipment and uniforms were destroyed. A music library dating back to the 1940's was no more. Not even chairs and music stands could be saved."
Luckily for the music students of Bay High, they received many grants helping them to replace lost instruments for the band. "It was through a generous contribution from ASCAP that allowed for the purchase of the heart and soul of the band - equipment for the drum line. The joy on the faces of the entire band on the day when familiar chants and cadences once again filled the band room said it all. ASCAP gave us more than instruments. They gave us hope."
|Below are some of the touching letters ASCAP received from members of the Bay High School Tiger Pride band.|
On behalf of the Bay High Tiger Pride Band, I would like to thank you and your company for donating the money. Without the money that you donated, we would still be taking turns playing instruments that we have saved. Even though the hurricane destroyed our lives, we now have something to inspire us to try our best. Thank you very much.
We really appreciate your gracious donations of $5,000. Our drumline lost everything in the storm. Hopefully with your donation, we can all buy new instruments. I know you don't know me, but I really appreciate everything you have done for us. We will never be able to repay you, but we thank you dearly.
We, the Bay High Tiger Pride Band, wish to thank you. The majority of our equipment was lost or stolen during the tragedy of Katrina. Your contribution to our band is immensely appreciated. We will use the money to retrieve new and better equipment. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
I would like to thank you personally for the awesome donation. You have no idea what this means to us. Things like this give us hope of being a band again. I stayed at the local electric company during the storm. I was maybe two miles from the beach. Needless to say, it was a life changing experience. Thank you once again for all you have done.