Picture yourself in the New Orleans French Quarter on a bright summer day.
The sound of jazz music echoes through the air as you make your way through the streets of the Quarter and into Jackson Square. The cheerful men of jazz bands make sweet music for people walking by and hope that a few stop to listen, throw a few quarters into their open instrument cases, or, even better, buy their CD. Locals like me hurry by on our way to work or lunch, and often forget to stop and appreciate the music that has come to define New Orleans culture. Jazz music has enriched New Orleans history and developed traditions that will continue to be celebrated for centuries to come.
New Orleans is a unique city and was the perfect birthplace for jazz music. Jazz spread like wildfire as musicians left New Orleans to make a living elsewhere. Since early jazz musicians played to earn a living, they could not foresee that the music they played would become an important part of the traditions of New Orleans or that it would become a musical genre admired and listened to by people all over the world. Musicians like New Orleans natives Louis Armstrong and the Marsalis family played a main role in revolutionizing jazz and were important actors in the evolution of jazz music. The people of New Orleans and tourists alike continue to admire jazz musicians, whether they’re listening at Snug Harbor or on a random street corner. Whether it’s a Friday night happy hour or the French Quarter fest, music is a crucial part of life in New Orleans.
As Louis Armstrong once said, “What we play is life.” Music, the heart and soul of New Orleans, remains an important part of life, death, and everything in between.