Program launched in January will expand to include a major in Gulf South studies, interactive website and K-12 cultural curriculum.
The Gibson Foundation's $1 million gift is fueling a three-year initiative to reinvent musical education at Tulane University. Photo by Tulane University
As images of a city in tatters filled the world's airwaves in 2005, predictions abounded that the unique culture of New Orleans was destined to be lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Understanding that music comprises a central component of the irreplaceable fabric of the city, Music Rising, a charitable foundation founded by U2's the Edge, famed rock producer Bob Ezrin and Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, stepped forward to save the city's soul by donating instruments to countless musicians, churches, schools and community groups.
As the flood waters receded and the streets once again filled with the dynamic sounds of the region, Music Rising teamed with the Tulane University School of Liberal Arts to further invigorate south Louisiana through the newly created New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. In September 2010, the Gibson Foundation announced a $1 million, three-year initiative to reinvent musical education at the university through the launch of a new curriculum designed to offer the ultimate course of study on the region's musical heritage.
"The interconnections we're about to make with the resources at Tulane for the public and students are incredible," explained Rosalind Hinton, senior program manager of Music Rising. "Students will go out into the city and create a portfolio of lived experiences with the tradition-bearers of the city. Nowhere else in the country will students have this kind of opportunity."
The initiative was launched in January in tandem with the opening of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, directed by Lawrence N. Powell, the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization. Development of a coordinate major in Gulf South studies, a state-of-the-art interactive website and a K-12 curriculum on the city's musical and cultural legacy are under construction.
In addition, the Newcomb Department of Music is establishing a visiting lecturer position for a Jazz Artist in Residence to start this fall. The position is expected to establish Tulane as a leader in jazz education and performance in the region by bringing a world-renowned jazz musician to lead six master classes for instrumentalists, vocalists and ensembles.
"This allows Tulane to become home to Grammy-award winning musical ambassadors to the world," Hinton said. "This is a great moment for our jazz studies program to bring internationally acclaimed artists to campus to demonstrate that great musicians don't just come out of the cement, don't just learn on the streets without any training."
The website, meanwhile, will enable a full multimedia experience for students, Hinton says. Resources will include video streaming of musical performers demonstrating their craft, word-searchable transcripts with audio links to rare sound recordings from the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive, current faculty research, live streaming of master classes and social networking. The center also plans to bring cultural resources to the students of Orleans Parish who lack cultural assemblies, festivals and funds for field trips and to educators who suffer from space and scheduling constraints.
"We're really trying to enliven their current curriculum with their own history and help them make connections between what they're studying in school and where they live," Hinton explained. "We're interested not just in college students being able to produce, reproduce, document, preserve and continue traditions, but also in having children do the same. They're our major culture-bearers, and there are values in this music that must be passed along."
Finally, Hinton considers the Gulf South coordinate major, expected to be offered in August 2012, a natural outgrowth of Tulane's renewed commitment to the city after the hurricane.
"Community engagement is an important part of the Music Rising initiative. We're working with professors with links in the community, like Nick Spitzer, who produced works for his American Routes radio program with his students, to enable our students to cross cultures respectfully," she said. "New Orleans is a prism that refracts the whole world, and [the Gibson Foundation's generosity] is a vote of confidence in Tulane that we have the talent , resources and ability to collaborate and engage with the community to tell the stories of the region. It's a statement that says we're alive and kicking. We're here."
Michael Ramos is a writer in the Office of Development.
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