October 29th, 2012
thelensnola.orgBy Michael Patrick Welch
Sitting still doesn’t come naturally to a lot of kids. Getting students to sit still long enough to learn is often the teachers’ hardest job. But weeks before school officially began at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology, eager students sat for hours at a time, practicing their horns under the direction of band director Charles Brooks.
In the back of the room, another line of students stood at attention, drum straps around their necks, silently waiting for their turn to play. There was no cutting up, no speaking out of turn. Whether the motive is getting to march in Mardi Gras parades, winning a music scholarship to a college otherwise out of reach, or simply because all their friends do it, New Orleans students respond to few pursuits as seriously as they do band class.
With so much change in New Orleans schools since Katrina, it’s difficult to get a bead on the state of music education in the city. To that end, The Lens called every public school in New Orleans and interviewed school leaders, band directors, nonprofits and students to figure out whether marching bands and other music programs have fully revived since the hurricane.
The deeper question: How will a changing music landscape affect the city’s kids—and in turn, New Orleans’ rich artistic culture?