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Note: This article appears in the April issue of Northlake monthly, published by Catherine Goux. The tabloid-format magazine can be reached at 504-845-9933 in Madisonville. The music editor is Roger Kennedy.

Notes on Music from the Louisiana Music Commission
April & May 1998

By Steve Picou

Spring is the most musical time of the year in Louisiana. And in a state as musical as ours, that's saying a lot. There's the Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Festival International in Lafayette, the Fiddling Championship in Marthaville, the Gospel & Bluegrass Jamboree in Elizabeth, the Cajun French Music Association Music Festival in Eunice, the Louisiana Hall of Fame Induction in Lafayette, the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, and more than 100 great festivals, cookoffs, fairs and pow wows, most with music. In this article, we'll focus on some of our great music events and on the growing evidence that music improves lives&emdash;something most Louisiana citizens already know!

Two big music festivals, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Festival International in Lafayette offer up the best&emdash;and most difficult&emdash;musical choices of the year. Figuring out which stages to go to and which to miss is the sweet agony of decision-making at Jazz Fest. Only the hardiest souls can make every day, so the additional choice of which days to attend further contributes to the vital details involved in choosing. At Festival International, the choices, the prices and the crowds are easier to deal with, if you don't mind a little less of everything.

However, the charm and ease-of-movement in downtown Lafayette's free music celebration, combine to make their festival a family-friendly experience unparalleled in Louisiana festivals.

This year the Jazz Fest will benefit from completion of the grandstand at the Fairgrounds. The traditional jazz and gospel tents are moving onto the concrete parking area adjacent to the track and stands and will create a new open space on the infield that should help reduce congestion on really crowded days. And the new grandstand will host, in air conditioned comfort, exhibits, interviews and performances that will create an oasis missing for the last few years. Also missing will be the mid calf-deep water in the jazz tent after a big rain, one of the main reasons for moving the tent to the lot. We have mixed feelings about losing the fun of sloshing to traditional jazz, though.

Festival International officially gets underway on Tuesday, April 21, with the big multi-stage street festival capping the weekend. The festival celebrates French cultures around the world, and next year marks the 300th anniversary of French settlement in Louisiana, so expect a few more international tourists and dignitaries to be around, checking out the fun so that in 1999 they'll know what to do when they return for Francofete, Congres Mondial Acadien and other special celebrations.

New Orleans Jazz Club 50th Anniversary Celebration

Most people have no idea how much Louisiana (and the world) owes a few folks who got together fifty years ago and started the New Orleans Jazz Club. Their legacy&emdash;housed in the Louisiana State Museum at the Old Mint in New Orleans&emdash;is the New Orleans Jazz Club Collection, the world's first&emdash;and only&emdash;origins of jazz museum. The collection is a living legacy of the people of Louisiana which contains Louis Armstrong's first horn and a wonderful group of instruments, mementos and photos telling the story of jazz in New Orleans from the beginning to today. Many of the city's greatest jazz historians and preservationists are members of the Club, and Frances Fernandez, President and a founding member, is hosting this year's soiree. Once again, the Historical Holiday Inn Superdome is the location, and from 3 to 8 PM on Wednesday, April 29, will be hopping with great music, joyful reunions and historical significance. A 50th anniversary commemorative poster by Louisiana artist George Rodrigue will be available as a limited edition, and the great Lillian Boutte and Her Musical Friends will entertain with many special guests. The party is in the Buddy Bolden Breezeway at the hotel, which features a life-sized depiction of the area's jazz history painted by Lafayette muralist Robert Dafford, who also painted the great clarinet on the side of the building. If you want to run into some of the city's eccentric and treasured jazz lovers, go to this party. It's a great way to add credibility to your appreciation of New Orleans jazz, and a karma-wise way to prepare for the Jazz Fest. For more information contact Frances Fernandez at 504-455-6847.

Music Can Save Your Life!

It's true, and your children's, too. Recent data from studies and surveys indicate that music helps grow the brain, strengthens cognitive abilities, even improves math and science skills. Hands-on music instruction and experiences&emdash;before age five&emdash;help coordinate the brain. Recent studies prove that music instruction literally grows bigger brains in young children. Another study proved that the piano keyboard can do more to make better students at age six than a computer keyboard. Music programs help with character development, too. A recent survey by our neighbors in Texas proved that children who participate in band or orchestra programs at school show a lifetime of less drug and alcohol use. And we all know that music can be therapeutic. Whether playing or listening, music helps stimulate many parts of our brains, acting as sort of a mental recharge that helps us clear our thoughts and focus on our tasks. Several organizations are leading the efforts to keep music in schools, to help children acquire instruments and to develop community music conservatories. If you want Louisiana to dance its way into the new millennium, join or start a music initiative in your area or school today!

Find Out More

The information in this article was contributed by the Louisiana Music Commission (LMC), a state agency within the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, whose mission is to promote and develop Louisiana's music industry. The broad mission of the LMC encompasses education, infrastructure development, broadcasting, workforce development, marketing and promotion. For more information on the Louisiana Music Commission, check the LMC website at http://www.comm.net/~lmc where you'll find news, reports, plans and stories like the ones in this article, including links to great organizations like the Louisiana Alliance for Arts Education and the American Music Conference or business resources like the Recording Industry Association of America, ASCAP, BMI, the Louisiana Songwriters Association and more. Or write to the LMC at P.O. Box 19031 Metairie LA 70002.

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Louisiana Music Commission
3330 N. Causeway Blvd. Suite 438
Metairie LA 70002
Phone: 504-838-5600 Fax: 504-838-5280
Email: lmc@louisianamusic.org