With music education declining in 1995, Jackie Harris created the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, a three-week summer camp for musicians, dancers and vocalists. At the time, Harris feared for the state of New Orleans’ music culture. But, she and a group of other like-minded individuals, including Edward “Kidd” Jordan who still serves as the camp’s artistic director, implored then-Mayor Marc Morial to let them save the state of music education in the city. To the benefit of the city and its musically-inclined youth, Mayor Morial agreed with Harris.
Over the years, the camp has taught many notable New Orleans artists, such as trombonist and trumpeter Troy Andrews, better known by his stage name “Trombone Shorty,” along with trumpeter, composer and producer Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah and rapper and producer Paul Simms.
When asked about his experience as a camper, Christian Scott notes, “There are no camps like this that I’ve experienced in my time as a student or as an educator. I was shown that I could be all I dreamed of becoming.” Even those who moved on from jazz into some other genre of music say the camp is what made them who they are today, including Paul Simms. “Jazz camp is where I learned the fundamental necessities of music. When I entered college as a music major, I was significantly ahead of my peers with understanding music theory.”
The teachers are quite notable as well: in 1985, the French Ministry of Culture recognized Harris as a Knight (Chevalier) of the Ordre des Artes et des Lettres. “The Queen of Swing,” Norma Miller, who was discovered by dancer Twist Mouth George at 12 years old, passed away in May 2019 and is now named a life-long artist-in-residence. This year, Steve Turre, the trombonist, seashellist and jazz musician, will serve as an artist-in-residence for the camp. Sadly, two of the camp’s other teachers passed away–clarinetist Alvin Batiste, in 2007, and trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr, in 2010–but their spirit and purpose lives on with the camp.
This year marks the 25-year-anniversary of the camp’s formation back in 1995. As it’s a special year for the camp, Harris wants this year’s curriculum to focus on the eponymous jazz legend, Louis Armstrong. On June 24, the campers will gather at Loyola University New Orleans’ campus to begin three-weeks of daily instrument workshops, also attending classes on music composition, swing dance and voice. For this year’s camp capstone, campers and instructors will perform together on July 12, celebrating 25 years of the camp’s invaluable service to New Orleans.
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