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Life Arts

How A High School Jazz Band Brought Prom Dresses, Musical Instruments and Hope to NOLA

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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?


During 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 shocked.

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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.


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Wow. So, how did Mr. Warrick pull off his ambitious agenda? And how did the jazz ensemble fit into that plan?

Usually 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.

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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?

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http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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