Concerts draw jazz lovers to Visitor Center
NEW ORLEANS — Visitors passing through North St. Peter’s Street on a Saturday afternoon can hear the sounds of saxophones, trumpets and soulful vocals emanating from the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Visitor Center.
Free concerts are held every Saturday and Wednesday at the center and the music seeps into the nearby streets in the French Quarter.
The performances are by brass bands, pianists and other musicians. The concerts feature musicians from New Orleans and sometimes even from other parts of the world.
|The Mississippi Steamboat Chickens, a traditional jazz band from Germany, played to a packed Visitor Center (Photos by Lauren Shepherd).
“The music is very nice here,” said Renate Mesick, a visitor from Stuttgart, Germany.
Mesick came to the concert to see the Mississippi Steamboat Chickens, a traditional jazz band from Germany.
“I’m happy to be in a city with so much culture,” she said.
Though the majority of national parks are created because of the area’s diverse plant and animal life and its wide, open natural spaces or the existence of historic monuments, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park has different reason behind its establishment. The unique purpose of the park is to preserve jazz music and provide cultural opportunities for visitors to experience jazz music in the very city where the jazz was born.
|The sign outside of the center displays events taking place during the day.
On my visit in April, I was able to attend a Saturday concert featuring traditional jazz bands from Germany. The first band to play was the Maryland Jazz Band of Cologne. Though the band was not from New Orleans, the concert still retained a local feel since New Orleans native Big Al Carson sang with the band.
The Visitor’s Center was filled with Germans, Americans, other international tourists and even New Orleans residents. All chairs were in use by those who arrived early, so many visitors chose to stand at the back of the room to experience the music.
The concerts are for all ages. Though the concert attendees are mostly adults, there are also many college students and families with young children that attend the Saturday concerts.
“If I’m in the French Quarter on a Saturday, I try to drop by to enjoy the music,” said Jeff Siberman, a student at Tulane University.
“Usually the musicians are local, but every now and then an international band or touring group will come through the center,” he said.
|The Maryland Jazz Band of Cologne engaged the crowd at the Visitor Center.
The busiest months for the concerts are April and October.
“We usually have local bands, but in April, we often have traveling bands from Germany, France, and also every branch of military bands,” said Jazz Park Ranger Bruce Barnes.
“If you come [in April], the place fills up quickly,” said Barnes. “Check out the schedule online and come early if you want to sit down.”
The center also offers many other music-related events throughout the week to cultivate appreciation of jazz music and culture. On any given week, the events calendar at the Visitor Center is likely to be packed with programs for visitors to see live jazz music and learn about the history of the music.
|There was not an emty seat in the house during the performance of the Maryland Jazz Band of Cologne.
Ranger-led programs usually involve lectures on the history of jazz music and jazz musicians of New Orleans.
The center also has a program that teaches young people how to play jazz music. The program is called “Music for All Ages.”
“Different brass bands work with the kids,” said Barnes. “It’s about educating them about jazz, and giving them the opportunity to learn.”
The program has brought about the formation of three bands of young musicians, and the kids even have the opportunity to play music at parades and festivals.
“It keeps the kids connected with older mentors,” said Barnes.
If You Go:
- Visitor Center address: 916 N. Peters St., in the French Quarter, New Orleans.
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, year round. The center is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- An events calendar can be accessed at: http://www.nps.gov/jazz/planyourvisit/events.htm.