As I work and write this, I’m listening to Bonerama pump out an in-store at the Louisiana Music Factory downstairs. How lucky are we OffBeaters that we get to listen to all the in-stores while we work?
We also always get to see massive numbers of music fans who stray in during Jazz Fest week and come up to visit OffBeat. It’s a joy talking to people who are like-minded: They love New Orleans, they love our music. And they are all from outside New Orleans, every one of them. This morning we had folks in from New York, Italy and Australia—locals don’t really pop in to visit during Jazz Fest.
I was explaining this fact to one of our visitors who was simply amazed that more New Orleanians didn’t love their music as fervently as those people from out of town do. These people are dyed-in-the-wool members of the “Church of New Orleans” (one of our visitors is starting a website by that name!).
But a good majority of the people from New Orleans ironically don’t belong to the church.
Last week, Joseph and I went to buy some flowers for our garden at a local nursery and in talking to one of the young guys who worked there, we asked what day he was going to Jazz Fest. Guess what? He had never heard of Jazz Fest. Sad but not surprising. How can a culture that is so fascinating to and revered by so many people outside New Orleans get short shrift in its hometown?
Honestly, I think it’s because our educational system doesn’t put any emphasis on the uniqueness of our culture. Music and arts instruction isn’t institutionalized. Our culture isn’t taken seriously by most people who live here.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have that “Jazz Fest” vibe all year long vis-à-vis our music and culture? We’ve already got a strong relationship to food that transcends being a local or a tourist. What do we need to do as a city that will elevate the love of music to that of food? What can we do to elevate locals’ participation in our musical culture to an every-day occurrence, not just a seasonal “Jazz Fest” awareness? And even more importantly, how does music and culture get the same respect and support that sports teams do?
The answer is pretty simple: money.
This city should commit more of its monetary resources to creating a committed populace of existing citizens—and a future market—that recognize the importance of our music and culture. The fact that we have a plethora of festivals—like Bayou Boogaloo—to celebrate music and food is a very good thing; it keeps us mindful of why we love living here.
But we need more.