My guest today is recent New Trier High School graduate, Carrie Furniss. Welcome to OpEdNews, Carrie. While you were at New Trier, you became involved in a project directed at the folks in the Gulf Region, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Could you tell our readers about it?
my sophomore year, I was in New Trier's Jazz Ensemble 1. My director, Jim
Warrick, uses our concerts and other fund-raising events to support a different
charity every year. His visit to New Orleans during his winter break of 2007
really changed him. I think he was wowed that even after two years of
"reconstruction" that little to no progress had been made to rebuild
the city. He came to school one day, abandoned all work on our jazz pieces for the
time being, and showed us a video that he had taken during his tour of the
city. To say the least, I, along with the other jazzers in the room, was
The media hadn't covered Katrina or New Orleans for months now and this was my only taste of what New Orleans looked like. It was devastating: the video camera stayed on for blocks and blocks of his bus ride. Nearly every house for 20 minutes of driving was abandoned, broken down, or had a spray-painted number of how many people were found dead inside, after the flood. After the video, he explained that our year-round project was to raise $75,000 to build a house for Habitat for Humanity, deliver musical instruments to schools in NOLA, to deliver prom dresses and tuxes for the teens in the public school system, and eventually, take a trip to New Orleans during our spring break to play music and work at a Habitat site.
Wow. So, how did Mr. Warrick pull off his ambitious agenda? And how did the jazz ensemble fit into that plan?
when the band fund-raises, we use money from ticket sales and the members
collect donations in the auditorium during a performance. This time, because we
wanted to raise $75,000, we planned a 16-hour marathon/telethon to raise money
directly following our Fall Jazz Concert. Every member collected pledges
for every hour spent at the marathon. This was televised on the local channel.
The group I was in, Jazz 1, performed 4 times in 30-minute sets. The younger bands played less frequently, but were involved nonetheless. Some local bands, including high school rock bands made up of the jazz musicians, performed at night as well. By the time 9 AM rolled around, we had made $28,000 toward our goal of $75,000. We also produced a 25th anniversary CD including the guest artists that have performed with Jazz 1 throughout the years and sold it all year; all profits benefiting our NOLA project. That raised a couple thousand dollars as well.
In terms of collecting the instruments and the formal wear, we used our annual Jazz Festival as an outlet. New Trier is visited by dozens of high schools and middle schools each year on this day. We figured we'd advertise to the schools to bring in used formal wear and instruments to help our cause, and it was a huge success. I'd say we'd made over two thirds of our intake that day alone. We also made it an incentive to bring a certain amount of dresses/instruments and the school that brought them would be able to play on the main stage and get a professional video of their performance.
Once you had them, how did you get all the instruments and prom dresses down to New Orleans? And how did you know who to get them to?
decided that the dresses would go to a foundation called Becca's closet. Their
mission is to deliver formal attire to those who would not be able to attend
their prom or homecoming otherwise. The instruments went to Tipitina's Foundation. Tipitina's is a jazz club in NOLA that sponsors a program to
deliver musical instruments to schools and students that either cannot afford
them or that were damaged during Katrina.
To pull everything together during our trip on spring break, one of the parents drove a U-haul down to NOLA and later, met up the band. We played at the Tipitina's jazz club in downtown New Orleans, inviting high school students in the area. This is where we distributed some of the dresses and tuxes. (If you would like to know more details about the day of the prom project and the day at Tipitina's (which was my favorite part of the entire trip, I have attached my college essay). We played three different sets at Tip's: one for the high-schoolers during the day, and two at night where we headlined!
Exciting! Carrie gave me permission to include an excerpt from her college essay:
"I like to think of this day as my baby, with nine months preparation and a beautiful (and unexpectedly successful) product. Natalie, the only other girl in the band, and I had volunteered to head this project with help from my jazz band and people in my home town and surrounding communities. We collected over 1000 prom dresses and tuxedos for teens affected by Hurricane Katrina. The effort of getting the word out, collecting the dresses, and storing them for the entire school year was completely worthwhile.
Two years after the storm, I watched these girls have the time of their lives. It was unlike anything I saw in New Orleans. During that trip, I saw abandoned houses, devastated people, and neighborhoods in ruin, but I never saw anything as optimistic as girls my age, from a completely different background, preparing for that most special of high school gatherings: PROM. I smile to myself whenever I revisit the emailed photos of our New Orleans counterparts and their dates wearing the formal wear we had collected. Hopefully, these clothes provided a "night to remember" for them as this event provided a day to remember for me."
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).