The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is on a mission. The goal? Help local, out-of-work musicians whose gigs, performances, and jobs have been put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Created February 8, the foundation's relief fund has already garnered over $8,000. With a goal of $250,000, there's still a long way to go on this most recent fundraising effort, though it's hardly the first endeavor.
Since March, the NOJHF has already provided relief funds for over 2,500 local music industry professionals. The nonprofit organization seeks to assist even more since, as their GoFundMe page explains, they're striving to help keep Louisiana's culture bearers afloat as they continue to face "a total or near-total loss of income for the foreseeable future."
Along with the GoFundMe page, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation released a promotional video titled "Rise and Shine," which will remind you of what you love about this city. Don Marshall, the executive director of NOJHF, said, "In my many years of working with the foundation, I don't think I've seen a more powerful and authentic representation of our city or musicians than the 'Rise and Shine' film." He's not kidding. In under four minutes, the video might make you cry.
It begins with an image of downtown New Orleans; the skyscrapers against a dark sapphire blue sky. A quick shot of a roof, then three windows showing yellow lights on the top floor. Jump cut to the back of Trombone Shorty's head. He's outside before the sunrise — it's an early morning hour, around the time musicians would be getting home if there were still parties, clubs, bars, nightlife raging into the a.m. Instead, we see Troy Andrews alone, dressed in a white tank top, the gold of his necklace glinting. He lifts his trombone and the symphonic brass notes resound. The camera angle shifts. We see Andrew's silhouette. He's standing on the rooftop, playing. Across the city, kids wake to the distant sound of his trombone. They clamber out of bed. "Do you hear that?" a teen asks as she walks down the stairs.
Andrews lowers his trombone and stares forward. There's no crowd, no audience response. Tthe background behind his profile is out-of-focus, but we're pretty sure it's empty. Out from that vastness of space, a distant note rings out. A musical response. In the first light of dawn, Andrews glances toward a bass drummer below him, who taps his cymbal twice. They nod at each other. We see the drummer is standing on the back of a rusted pickup. A snare player stands nearby, on the grass next to the truck. The trio launch into song, filling the city with the sound of Allen Toussaint's "Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)."
Across town, people are out on their porches and ready to join in. A kid marches down the middle of the road, blowing his tuba. He passes sidewalks lined with trumpeters, keyboardists, saxophonists. A woman in a blue surgical mask stands near an electrical pole, watching. The street view returns to Trombone Shorty, up there on the roof, moving the slide in an improvised solo. The film ends with a breathtaking view of New Orleans's buildings and the Crescent City Connection. Over this final shot, a white font spells out: "If you've ever been saved by music, here's your chance to return the favor."
The artful "PSA" was directed by Benjamin Sonntag. In addition to Trombone Shorty, the cast features Roger Lewis from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Julian Gosin of The Soul Rebels. The children are all locals, many of them students of the Don "Moose" Jamison Heritage School of Music, a free educational program sponsored by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation. While the video captures the heavy sentimentality of a year without live music, it also encapsulates a sense of hope.
Sure, a video that features the whole city breaking out in song is a complete fantasy. It's the kind of thing that happens in musicals, not reality. But that's not why the video is effective. It resonates because it reminds us of our connection through the music we love.
And that's the point the foundation is trying to make. "When the COVID-19 pandemic rolled across the globe, it silenced live music everywhere," the foundation's newsletter read. "As home to some of the world's greatest musical traditions, Louisiana is also home to some of its most gifted musicians. Musicians who have been struggling for nearly a year now, with no real end in sight." While crowdfunding is not the most ideal means for supporting laid-off workers, it's where we are. Without other means of assistance, the foundation's newsletter notes that "some have left their instruments behind for good, finding new ways to make ends meet, and making it challenging for young musicians to receive music instruction from the city's culture bearers." Music is a lifeline, and now fundraisers like this help the musicians in their livelihoods.
For more information, go to GoFundMe.com/f/JazzAndHeritageRelief