My first visit to New Orleans, which I’ve mentioned before in light of the 2018 AAG Meeting, came on the coattails of my talented younger sister. She played sax for a couple of bands in the Connecticut Youth Jazz Workshop. The director, Reid Gerritt (who passed away in 2014), collaborated with some CTYJ parents to coordinate large-scale performance trips in 1998 and 1999, the former being to perform at various stages around New Orleans, including the Parade Day of the French Quarter Festival.
At the time, most of us teenagers who either played in one of the bands or operated as a documenter treated the trips as vacations and opportunities to socialize with our friends in faraway cities, even chances to grow up a little bit. We certainly didn’t realize what an inconceivable amount of work must have gone into planning this out in a mostly DIY setting, which Mr. Gerritt did when the internet was only running at 52k. I would love if he were still around so I could ask him about that process. The influence he had on me, even as a non-musician, was unparalleled by most of my secondary school teachers (except perhaps by Reid’s wife Christine, a star Spanish teacher who coordinated a similar group trip to Spain in 2000 that likely steered me down the path culminating in you reading this blog right now. But that’s another story).
Here are a few moments from that New Orleans trip, pulled from my original VHS-C tapes filmed in April 1998. Please ignore anything that came out of my teenage mouth. I knew so little about the world then.
“Just Another Closer Walk with Thee” (April 17, 1998)
The group rushes inside to avoid a downpour and plays in the bar, and then performs Stan Kenton’s “The Peanut Vendor” back outside (April 17, 1998)
The Intermediate Band performing on the Natchez Steamboat (April, 1998)
The French Quarter Festival Parade (April 17, 1998)
Keep an eye out for then-Mayor Marc Morial (now the President of the National Urban League) around 30 seconds in.
On the off chance that you were there, or recognize anybody in these videos, feel free to comment and/or get in touch. Have a great week.