NEW ORLEANS (AP) — This year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrates 50 years of spotlighting Louisiana's culture and musical traditions.
The non-profit Jazz & Heritage Foundation — which owns the festival — is marking that milestone by directing festival profits to a range of annual programming, including free after school music classes for students and $1 million in project grants. It's also funding four free festivals held throughout the year: Crescent City Blues and BBQ, Treme Creole Gumbo, Congo Square New World Rhythms and Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco.
"The festival and the foundation were born together," said Don Marshall, the foundation's executive director. "Our purpose is to promote, preserve and perpetuate the state's musical and cultural uniqueness. Jazz Fest has grown so much since 1970 that it now financially supports the foundation which reinvests those funds into the community."
Marshall said the foundation gives more than $1 million yearly in grants to artists and organizations, such as YAYA — Young Aspirations Young Artists — which runs youth summer camps.
"The foundation has been an instrumental part of putting these 5- through 12-year-olds through camp," said Timeka Junius, YAYA's senior director of programs.
YAYA was founded in 1988 as a creative and entrepreneurial partnership between New Orleans artist Jana Napoli and art students from Rabouin High School, now known as the International High School of New Orleans. The afterschool enrichment program nurtures the creative talents of high school students while also strengthening their academic success, life skills and professional preparedness.
The students are known for their art works, including paintings, decorated chairs and glass.
The foundation's grand application deadline is May 17 this year.
"Through this avenue, we're able to support smaller organizations and get into the neighborhoods where the culture was created," Marshall said.
Marshall said the foundation's school of music was created in 1990 and classes in jazz, strings, brass and vocal are now taught to 285 students, primarily after school. The teachers include veteran musicians Don Vappie, Leah Chase and Derek Douget, who is the school's artistic director.
"It's an amazing program," Marshall said. "It's fun to watch the students in action and see how professional they've become. They develop the ability to work with others and develop self-esteem in the process."
The foundation also boasts a jazz and heritage archive that includes live recordings from previous festivals, a film archive of past jazz fests and oral histories from musicians, Mardi Gras Indians and other cultural tradition bearers, he said.
"We are so fortunate to live in a city that has so much culture," Marshall said. "It's truly phenomenal to just about every weekend have the ability to go to some type of celebration or festival. We're proud to be a part of that."