UNO Documentary: Preservation Hall Foundation

Editor’s Note: Music is the heart and soul of New Orleans. From the sidewalk to the concert hall, jazz musicians carry on a proud cultural tradition. But as school arts programs lose funding, a generation of future musicians lose the chance to hone their skills through music education. This is where the Preservation Hall Foundation steps in, providing the instruments, lessons, and training essential for young musicians. Filmmaker Sami Chaar profiles the organization, exploring jazz music and its enduring influence on the city.
What: Preservation Hall Foundation
Film by: UNO student and documentarian Sami Chaar
Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöppairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. This documentary short was made by Sami Chaar, a student in the Film and Theatre Department at the University of New Orleans, about the Preservation Hall Foundation.
|Read the full transcript of the interview below|

[Full transcription of Sami Chaar]

We all love to take a stroll down Decatur Street and listen to the beautiful sound of jazz blaring soothingly in the street, but let’s take a moment to discuss the city’s future and current struggles.

[Full transcription of Ashley Shabankareh]

One of the big challenges for all arts organizations in New Orleans is that there was a gigantic boom of arts organizations, especially after Hurricane Katrina. We saw a lot of the decrease of arts funding and arts education programs being cut from schools in New Orleans, at the same time when schools were being completely reorganized into the charter system.

And so with this influx of arts organizations, it became a challenge not just for us but across the whole city for arts organizations to really get funding and also to get recognition for what they were doing. And so I see that as a larger problem for all of New Orleans in that we’re all competing against each other in this way when instead we should be working with each other to help assist our larger community, and really the children of our community, to provide meaningful music education and arts education.

In addition to that, in terms of obstacles, as you know we are in the French Quarter, so it can be difficult for individuals to get to the quarter, which is why the focus of our programs outside of our field trip programs is to go to where people are and to meet people within their community. So that’s why a lot of our programming today is going directly out to schools or detention centers or other facilities so that way we can meet people where they are, and they don’t have to face the burden of transportation issues, which can be an obstacle for many.

[Full transcription of Sami Chaar]

New Orleans is a city full of art and music. Its history is bursting with great musicians, who helped create what the city is most known for. 

New Orleans as a whole struggles with lack of funding for schools. The funding is low. Many schools have cut funding for their music and fine arts programs due to more focus on STEM.

[Full transcription of Ashley Shabankareh]

So one of our big priorities is working directly with elementary and secondary schools to provide music education opportunities, and we do that through a jazz-in-class program, which places teaching artists to work in schools to create jazz band and brass band programs because that is one of our focus areas. It’s a much larger citywide and statewide issue in terms of recognizing that music education is a core art subject and needs to be provided to all students. That it goes beyond Preservation Hall and goes much more to a city and statewide level of recognizing that music is a crucial part for all children to be involved in. 

The foundation recently just gave away four sousaphones through our sousaphone program, which provides young students here in Orleans and Jefferson Parish with sousaphones and upright basses. And these are to be used basically as they grow within their programs because we recognize that students in New Orleans do not have access to quality instruments, and with so many music programs being cut, we wanted to make sure that we could support young musicians who are seeking to transition into a career in music and provide them with those tools. 

[Full transcription of Sami Chaar]

Although STEM curriculums are beneficial, we are lacking focus on cultural education. High schools with orchestra programs, bands, and theater programs have all shut down their fine arts departments due to lack of funding from the state. These are all obstacles in the face of the new generation of musicians and artists in the New Orleans area. Preservation Hall works on providing the necessary assistance and guidance to children that are trying to pursue a career in music.

The hall is fighting some of the major problems that students living in New Orleans face. It fights the lack of support and funding for music programs and schools, which will negatively impact students and will negatively impact the city of New Orleans in the near future. The hall works on bettering the most well-known thing about New Orleans: the music. It helps preserve it and keep it alive.


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