It was a daytime luncheon and concert, unusual for the Civic Theatre, but the crowds were just as enthused to be there. It was a benefit for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, located in the Musicians’ Village in the city’s Upper Ninth Ward. The Village was founded by native New Orleanians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, and constructed by Habitat for Humanity, as affordable housing for musicians and to create a sense of shared community.
So whom else would the Center ask, other than Connick and Marsalis, to help raise funds! The concert, on Tuesday (Feb. 4), not only featured performances from Connick — now on TV every Wednesday and Thursday nights for “American Idol” — as well as from Branford Marsalis (his father is Ellis Marsalis), Stephen Walker, Dewey Sampson, Andrew Baham and Ricky Sebastian and students from the Center, among others.
Among those in the audience were event chair Anna LeCorgne Schaefer, event committee members Quint Davis, Andy Lee and Lauren Courtney Mastio, and many other VIPS and supporters. This party was also a way to show supporters the importance of the Center. Its mission is three-fold: To provide a safe after-school place for kids to learn music (thus sustaining an important part of the cultural heritage of New Orleans via its next generation of musicians), and get homework help; a performance hall/recording studio for adult musicians; and a gathering place/community center for the residents of the Musicians' Village and the surrounding Ninth Ward community.