Musicians’ Village

A Vision of
Hope and Preservation

Following Hurricane Katrina’s devastating impact on the Ninth Ward and its surrounding neighborhoods in 2005, New Orleans natives Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr., both deeply connected to the legendary pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, recognized the threat to the city’s invaluable musical heritage. They saw that the loss of housing and the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from New Orleans endangered its unique musical culture.

To safeguard their hometown’s vibrant musical traditions, they collaborated with New Orleans Habitat for Humanity to establish the Musicians’ Village, providing affordable housing where the city’s musicians could reside and continue pursuing their musical endeavors.

In 2012, the heart of the Musicians’ Village, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, opened its doors. This 17,000-square-foot facility boasts a 170-seat performance space equipped with cutting-edge lighting and sound technology, a recording studio, a computer lab, a listening library, a dance studio, and classrooms for both individual and group instruction.

The neighborhood is a national example of how a meaningful vision and focused effort can provide immediate relief and long-term hope for the survival of a great city and many of its most essential citizens.

Ellis Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, and Harry Connick, Jr. break ground at the Musicians' Village.

Meet Some of Our Residents

Gwen Johnson smiling.

Gwen Johnson

Gwen Johnson and her late husband, legendary drummer Joseph “Smokey” Johnson, were among the Village’s first residents. A musical family with deep roots in New Orleans, Gwen remembers helping to build the house she lives in today and where she cared for Smokey in the final years of his life. You can find Gwen at all of our concerts, where she sits at a table of honor.

Hear Gwen reflect on why she likes living near the Center.

Michael Harris looking at the camera wearing a red hat.

Michael HARRIS

Michael Harris is a career bassist. After losing his home to Katrina while he was away on tour, Michael says he was divinely guided to the Musicians’ Village, where living among other musicians allows him to focus on his craft. “I thank God every day I open my eyes,” he says. “It’s another chance to, hopefully, make my voice heard through my music.”

Hear Michael explain how living in the Village has influenced him.

Margie Perez speaking.


Village resident Margie Perez is an accomplished singer who crosses the boundaries of jazz, funk, Latin, and R&B. One of her bands, Muévolo, was born from an EMCM Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and continues to perform today. Margie loves living among artists and hopes more people will come to the Ninth Ward to enjoy our concerts.

Hear Margie discuss the power of making music in New Orleans.

Musicians' Village homes.

I love the perfect blend of having the peaceful feel here, but also, if you want to hear some music, you can always call a neighbor and say, ‘Come on, let’s jam.’

– Janet Evans aka Nana sula, musicians’ village resident

Follow Ellis Marsalis Center on Spotify

I look at it as an old-school neighborhood. You see people almost every day, and you can catch up on who’s doing what musically and what’s happening on the scene. … I am very delighted to live in the Musicians’ Village.

– fred goodrich, musicians’ village resident & emcm Staff member