Happy New Year

This is my last blog in 2014, and we wish you all the best so that you and yours will  hopefully have a wonderful 2015.

The city of New Orleans is changing rapidly. It’s experiencing a boom in employment, real estate values and job growth that’s purely unprecedented. Business is booming, young people are moving to the city in unprecedented numbers.

But what about its attitude towards music? Are the residents of New Orleans more or less inclined to see music as a positive for the city?

How has the city government’s attitude changed towards live music? The years 2013 and 2014 were rife with battles between small groups who want to “turn down”—or even turn off—live music in areas like the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, Treme and Bywater: the historic areas of the city where the music was literally born. The latest battle is between a developer in the old Jax Brewery and a live music operator. Thanks to NOLA.com and Richard Webster for pursuing this story.

While you may not be able to compare the club in Jax Brewery to a music venue in the Marigny or the Quarter, the result is the same: live music is being targeted as the reason for a “decrease” in the quality of life in our historic districts by groups such as the VCPORA, French Quarter Citizens, and of course, the Grand Poobah of anti-music lawsuits in New Orleans, attorney Stuart Smith, who’s become the de facto attorney for anyone looking to sue under the noise ordinance violation charade, despite his guilty plea for cyberstalking and threats  made against a city councilman and local businessman.

In this case, it appears that the plaintiff is using the noise issue as a way to close a business to further exploit the real estate value of the Jax Brewery location.

Ah, the age-old music as noise/business versus resident controversy. I always find it interesting that if you read the comments in stories like the one referenced above,  the comments tend to be skewed to letting the music be. This is our way of life in New Orleans. If you don’t like noise, if you don’t want music, if you don’t like trash and litter or tourists, then you should not choose to live in an historic district that attracts tourists. Period. Over and out.

On the positive side for music and the perpetuation of the culture, we have seen two education resources for young musicians come to fruition in the past month:  the George & Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, the new home of the Heritage Music School of Music; and the New Orleans Jazz Market, a project of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Any effort towards preserving and promoting our musical culture through consistent education is a positive step for New Orleans music.

There’s still no jazz museum in New Orleans, although state officials with the Louisiana State Museum that controls the Old U.S. Mint are working to get a museum established there. The city has probably lost an enormous opportunity by not having the foresight to look at the best site ever for a jazz museum in New Orleans: the site of the World Trade Center, which overlooks the river. Currently, five proposals are in the running, and they all include hotels, apartments and/or condos and office space. Yawn.

This would have been the absolute ideal place for a museum, but it seems as though New Orleans still does not recognize the value of its music and culture as not only an integral part of its identity, but as a beacon for visitors from around the world. We lose.

We at OffBeat want to wish you and yours a Happy New Year. Keep fighting the good fight for New Orleans (and Louisiana) music and culture.