New Orleans has long had a history of producing talented musicians. More recently, as demonstrated by the 5,000-plus attendees at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, the city has started producing some talented entrepreneurs.
Edward Anderson hopes to bring the two together.
Under the auspices of local non-profit NOLA Art House Music, he plans a series of radio interviews, public concerts and online content designed to help the next generation of New Orleans musicians brand and market their talents – not just locally, but to the world.
“New Orleans has a unique culture – we all know that,” says Anderson, a New Orleans-based musician, composer and educator. “And it’s a highly creative culture. But there’s a challenge in that. We haven’t nurtured the commercial aspect needed for artists to promote themselves. It’s hard enough to be a great musician; to add the marketing and business end of it is even harder.”
“NOLA Art House Music Presents” will focus on the future leaders of the local music scene, in the jazz arena and beyond. So far, Anderson has identified about 10 musicians who fit the requirements: emerging artists who know the music, play professionally and are starting to make names for themselves.
“Most are young and have a certain level of academic history with music – many have conservatory experience. When you have that level of study and dedication to the music, it should be recognized and celebrated.”
Some of the musicians to be featured in the new series are from New Orleans, reared in the local music tradition. Others arrived from elsewhere, and fell in love with the city’s musical beat. All share an expertise that Anderson hopes to introduce to music fans.
“The oral tradition of handing down knowledge is part of the American culture,” says Anderson. “But there’s also something to be said for knowing how to translate that artistically, through composing or arranging. It sets a standard for artists of the 21st century.”
The radio component of NOLA Art House Music Presents debuts Thursday on WWNO, the local NPR affiliate, with 25-year-old clarinetist Gregory Agid in the spotlight. The 15-minute segment explores the musician’s origins, inspirations and aspirations.
“He’s from Hawaii,” says Anderson. “His father’s job landed him here. He went to Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp, and got his start playing with Delfeayo Marsalis. Most kids his age are interested in hip hop, but there’s something about this music that connects with young people — creatively, intellectually, the challenge of it, the improvisation.”
The second component of the series takes place on Saturday, April 5, with Licorice Stick: From Bechet to Batiste, a live concert at the U.S. Mint featuring Agid and internationally known clarinetist Evan Christopher. It’s a great combination, says Anderson.
“Evan is a student of the older vernacular, like Sidney Bechet. Greg has studied that, but is more of a modernist – Alvin Batiste or John Coltrane. They have different perceptions, but are both masters of the instrument. It will be a great overview of the clarinet in New Orleans culture and tradition.”
Anderson hopes that “NOLA Art House Music Presents” will not only market the musician, but also the music.
“The jazz audience has changed. For the baby boomers, jazz was popular music – look at the jazz soundtrack in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Today the popular influence of jazz has changed. In some ways, it has become the classical music of the 21st century.”
Anderson, for one, says he’s “very much optimistic” about the future of jazz. By helping young musicians shape their own futures, the music, too, can be sustained and evolve.
“This sort of thing is already happening organically in post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s so energetic here now. As we evolve, we hope to tap those entrepreneurial models for musicians.”
“I’m hoping to get people to realize the depth of expertise here.”