On September 19th 2013 we visited the Hogan Jazz Archive in New Orleans looking for additional information to flesh out the backgrounds of musicians who appear in a picture owned by one of our founders. This picture will be the basis of several upcoming posts about these musicians, their family histories and their contributions to the jazz scene of New Orleans. So, make sure you look out for these stories.
From their website (http://jazz.tulane.edu/), “The Hogan Jazz Archive is the leading research center for the study of New Orleans jazz and related musical genres, including New Orleans ragtime, gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, and Creole songs. Among its holdings are 2,000 reels of oral history interviews with musicians, family members, and observers that document the stories surrounding the emergence of jazz in New Orleans from the late 19th century forward.” Go online and explore their website to discover lots of information.
We were greeted at the archive by Mr. Lynn Abbott, Associate Curator and Editor of “The Jazz Archivist” newsletter. (If you want to see some fabulous pictures of New Orleans jazz spots “then and now” take a look at the latest issue of The Jazz Archivist.) He was extremely helpful in trying to identify some of the lesser-known musicians in the picture and to provide additional background information on all of them. One of the really interesting information sources Mr. Abbott showed us was a book by Al Kennedy about the influence of public school teachers in the development of jazz musicians. Al Kennedy worked as a communications coordinator in the public information office of the New Orleans public school system. During this time he began a series of interviews with retired teachers, principals and superintendents. According to his book, much of his research focused on the lives of music teachers who taught in the city’s public schools and on the history of public education in New Orleans. “’Scholars seldom have given any attention to the teachers in the public schools of New Orleans as important transmitters of Jazz musicianship and musical traditions, ‘ says Kennedy.” (Forward by Ellis Marsalis, Jr.) To Kennedy the musician-teachers were more than teachers; they became “Jazz mentors.” Absent from the popular and scholarly books, dissertations and articles that attempt to explain the origins of New Orleans music has been a discussion of the role of teachers in the public schools. If noted at all, their contributions have been regarded as a peripheral matter best treated in footnotes. This book argues that public school teachers deserve a more prominent place in the music history of New Orleans. Stories of musical mentors, the statements of their former students and the available historical records documenting these teachers’ lives and careers offer compelling evidence that beginning early in the century, public school teachers helped shape the music of New Orleans.
Sources: Hogan Jazz Archive, Special Collections, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University; “Chord Changes on the Chalkboard, How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans” Al Kennedy, 2002.