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Musician Wants to Bring Music Back to New Orleans


New Orleans is known around the world as a birthplace of jazz. Hurricane Katrina scattered many of the city's musicians and artists across the country. Fewer than 300 of the city's pre-Katrina population of over 2,000 musicians have returned. But the city, as part of its recovery effort, is trying to get more of them back.

Revitalizing the culture of New Orleans is the goal of the Bring Back New Orleans Cultural committee.

The best-known member of the committee is famed jazz musician and New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis.

He grew up in a musical family and used New Orleans tradition as a base from which to develop his own style.

Hurricane Katrina devastated many neighborhoods that contributed to the city's artistic standing, but Marsalis says New Orleans music was in decline well before the storm came.

"In all of our education, we did not learn a lot about New Orleans music. That is a fact, and it has continued on to today. The level that the music is being played on is low and the knowledge of other New Orleans' traditions is equally low."

The answer, he says, is better education. "Kids need to be educated, you know.” He says he has been proactive in trying to educate the young, "I teach them. I have been teaching young people for 25 years, man. I give them information, take them to concerts."

Wynton Marsalis says he enjoys working with younger musicians like 19-year-old Calvin Johnson, to help foster a new generation in New Orleans's music.

Calvin says most kids his age are not interested in jazz and he agrees with Wynton Marsalis as to the remedy. "One angle that can be taken is music in the schools, arts in the schools. That really plays an important role in the development and the early childhood interest. That is the only reason I am into it, as well as my family, is that I was exposed to it as a child."

Of the $80 billion Congress has promised for the rebuilding of New Orleans, Wynton Marsalis hopes a small part, less than one percent, can be spent to revive its cultural soul.

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