Teaching

New Orleans School Bands Strutting Once More

By Lesli A. Maxwell — September 10, 2007 2 min read
Drummers from the St. Augustine High School Marching 100, known locally as "Saint Aug", play as students from the Xavier University Preparatory School all-girls band watch following their own performance outside Tipitina's music club in New Orleans.

The St. Augustine High School Marching 100 wrapped up its propulsive set along Napoleon Avenue and made way for the band from O. Perry Walker High School.

It was a sweltering August evening—exactly two years after Hurricane Katrina—in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. A crowd had gathered outside Tipitina’s, a storied music club, to witness a promising sign that New Orleans’ long tradition of marching bands and music education would survive the tumult that the storm brought to the city’s schools.

Flag carriers from St. Augustine's band wait for their cue in front of Tipitina's, whose foundation has donated funds to support music education in the city.

Katrina’s floodwaters left nearly every school’s band room and contents in ruins. In most of the public schools, repairing buildings and hiring teachers have been the overwhelming priority, so individual donors and outside organizations have stepped in to help.

Tipitina’s Foundation, already a patron of music education in the schools, has raised close to $1 million since the storm to outfit hundreds of school musicians with new instruments. The St. Augustine and O. Perry Walker bands had to come to play outside Tipitina’s in a special event arranged to show off their new instruments.

St. Augustine trumpet players stand quietly in a straight line as they wait their turn to perform in an event at Tipitina's to showcase school bands.

“We would have had nothing to play without their help,” said Wilbert J. Rawlins, the band director for O. Perry Walker, a former district-run public school that reopened as a charter after the storm. “Without music in our schools here, it wouldn’t be New Orleans, and the city wouldn’t have its next generation of musicians.”

Pleasing the Crowd

O. Perry Walker High School students twirl batons during a classic “battle of the bands” with the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 outside Tipitina's in New Orleans.

Putting back together the St. Augustine Marching 100—one of the most celebrated high school bands in New Orleans—has heartened people across the city, said Rev. Joseph M. Doyle, the president of the school.

The historically African-American, all-boys Roman Catholic school has had many of its prestorm students come back. Last year, the band reunited its musicians with donated instruments and its signature purple and gold uniforms in time to march in more than 10 Mardi Gras parades.

As the O. Perry Walker musicians tuned up, Mr. Rawlins explained that they were still getting used to playing together.

Brandon Washington, a junior at St. Augustine High School, raises cymbals in the air as part of a choreographed routine while playing with the school band.

Like everything else Hurricane Katrina changed, most of the Walker musicians had gone to other high schools before the storm, and had played in other bands. Some of the freshmen were playing an instrument for the first time, and the full band had only been rehearsing together for about three weeks.

If Walker’s playing wasn’t quite as polished as St. Augustine’s, their medley of pop songs and high-stepping routine brought cheers and whistles from the crowd.

Chelsea Gary, right, a 9th grader, plays the trumpet with the Xavier University Preparatory School's marching band.

The Marching 100 stood in formation nearby, listening respectfully—that is, until Walker ended its set, and “St. Aug,” as locals refer to the school, issued a brassy challenge. Walker’s musicians answered noisily, and with that, a “battle of the bands” erupted at the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street. Traffic stopped. The crowd spilled into the space between the two bands.

And in this still-wounded city, where playing in the high school marching band brings more acclaim than playing on the football team, it didn’t matter which band won the battle.

Related Tags:

Coverage of public education in New Orleans is underwritten by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Download Pandemic School Supplies: 8 Items Worth Adding to Your Class Supply Lists
With students going back to school in droves after a year of remote learning, here are 8 items to consider adding to your class supply list to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
1 min read
Teaching Opinion Eleven Strategies for Facing This Year's Classroom Challenges
Four educators share suggestions on facing pandemic-related challenges this coming school year, including implementing consistent routines.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Q&A Collections: Differentiating Instruction
Posts and videos from the past 10 years offering practical suggestions on differentiating instruction.
4 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Q&A Collections: Student Voices
Links to 10 years of posts in which students share their thoughts about education.
2 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty