Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Short Update from New Orleans

Hello Good People:
This will be short and sweet  (well, "short" for me), because you and I are all exhausted from the daily wear and tear of the events each day, between Wall Street, the economy and the election, it has been rough for so many. Just want you to know that our thoughts go out to each of you in these strange and fearful times, but remember that somehow, and you never think it will when you are in crisis, but Life always has a way of working out.
Our trip to new Orleans was amazing. We only expected 50 musicians to show up and had nearly 100 of the greatest most beloved folks around.
They all said it was the first time since Katrina that anyone or any group ever invited them all together and then asked them what kind of help they needed! 
It was beyond moving to see musicians ranging in age from 30 to 97 stand up and say what they had been going through and how Bourbon Street is barely giving jazz musicians the gigs.  Nearly all the clubs we passed that night had rap, R & B, or bad Rock n Roll cover bands.  The main thing we learned is that there really are hardly any clubs anymore where they can make enough money to support themselves and actually, to even be "allowed" to play jazz and blues! It was shocking.  
We were all shocked by the eye opening stories they heard and then the tour we gave them to the various houses and the great else musicians, one who at the age of 77, had to drag his boat without gasoline in it, by the rope and anchor through the street he lived on with the water up to his chest and went around saving all his elderly neighbors and one child who was in an attic with water up to his neck! It was an amazing story. He also said if it wasn't for our donors, he never would be able to still play his trumpet because he could no longer do those four-hour gigs--the one-hour school gigs were keeping his soul alive.  Our entire staff came down and the musicians got to meet some of the folks they've been speaking to all this time for the first time. There was so much hugging and tears from men and women who never had the chance to express their gratitude in person, or who hadn't seen us for a long while.  It was so touching and a bit overwhelming.
All the musicians filled out solution cards and later spoke into the open mic, enlightening us in ways that will certainly help us to help them better. They said it was so therapeutic to do this that they wished we could do it  each month, like an old town hall meeting for musicians. It was so important to band everyone together because that's the only way we can ever make change. 
Best of all, they ALL said that our Agnes Varis Jazz & Blues in the Schools gigs were what was keeping them able to keep their music and their hope alive.
We adore you, our supporters, for changing the world and making one little corner of it more beautiful than you could ever know.
Yours in Service,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


September 3, 2008

Hello Good People:

Just wanted to let you know that we are getting more and more requests as the dust of Hurricane Gustav settles.We've been paying for hotels for
musicians and their children who had to flee and had nowhere to go,we have been giving emergency living expenses so folks could eat, (hotels have
no cooking facilities),we gave gas money so they could return home, and as they discover what else went wrong we will get more requests in the days
ahead. Many gigs and flights were canceled this week, so many musicians lost the little money they were supposed to have coming in – making it
impossible to pay their rent this month and many are without power and scared with other storms on the way.

We were grateful.

Tonight, hundreds are lined up on roads waiting till midnight tonight to re-enter some of the Parishes. Evacuees on state-chartered buses: will be
brought back by the end of the week. Curfews remain in effect.

We heard from many people letting us know they were okay.We heard from single fathers with kids under the age of 8 who had no cars, and had to
take rides with other musicians and their families and are stuck without a way back or who are sleeping on floors of some of their out-of-town fans
who used to hear them on Bourbon Street and invited them to come and stay in Mississippi or Florida!

One of our favorite musicians and human beings from New Orleans had been on the road and was not allowed back into New Orleans. So we made
sure he was safe and flew him to NY for a gig.We were all together at this gig the night before the hurricane landed. It was an experience to be with
someone from New Orleans while this was going on. With all he had on his mind, he never mentioned until after it was over, that his 9 year old
daughter was stuck in New Orleans with his ex-wife. He was worried about her and he mentioned his dog was in the house alone. He had been on the
road and was not allowed back and he couldn't get thru by phone to his ex-wife!) He had not slept in over 20 hours. But not only did he play with Sweet
Georgia Brown, giving every breath in his body, but he played with the next band too and not once did he sit down till the entire gig was over. This is a
real deal old school musician. This is why we work so hard for the folks who work so hard for us – No matter what they face, they make us happy with
their music – and you never hear them complain. But this time, I heard fear from so many, for the very first time.

Turns out both his daughter and his puppy were fine. He left New York this morning but not without a home cooked meal from Sweet Georgia Brown
and the love and support from our staff thanks to each of you who keep us going.

Another beloved educator and bandleader who in Katrina, lost nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of museum quality memorabilia of
original jazz musicians from New Orleans, recordings and writings that were irreplaceable that took him a lifetime to gather was stuck in Baton Rouge
where his Mom was in the nursing home. He managed to get the last reservation in the last hotel. This time around, he had all his horns with him–
many of which we were able to replace after the Katrina. He got the last reservation at a nearby hotel. He felt so lucky he had this hotel, (there was no
electricity, no air conditioning, the windows didn't open, there was no food since restaurants and stores weren't open the past few days!) He told me
there was nothing to eat- he had to get on lines outside at a Salvation Army truck that came thru once a day, only to be told they ran out of food both
days he waited! But he kept saying tome how he was so much luckier than most. He thanked us for helping to make that possible. He said the biggest
worry now are the hurricanes to follow, they are starting to get the folks worried about this one now.

We will be making a trip down to New Orleans at end of this month to host a big meeting for as many of the musicians as possible, to hear directly from
them what their biggest issues are and to discuss solutions and have them participate in their own recovery. For if you don't include the people you
are trying to help, you may miss something important. And as we always say,what we can't do alone,we can do together.
From all of us – thank you for helping to make this beautiful work possible.

It's hard to believe they need us again, now more than ever. I guess that means we need you now more than ever.

Wishing all only good news in the days ahead –

Yours in service,


Executive Director
Jazz Foundation of America