[JPL] Tony Bennett donates instruments during Jazz Fest

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Fri May 1 09:51:33 EDT 2009

Tony Bennett donates instruments during Jazz Fest
By STACEY PLAISANCE -- 14 hours ago

NEW ORLEANS (AP) --- Jazz crooner Tony Bennett handed out dozens of new 
instruments Thursday to students at a charter school founded in the wake 
of Hurricane Katrina, hoping the tubas, trumpets and trombones would be 
used to carry on New Orleans' vibrant musical tradition.

Meanwhile, the second half of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 
got under way.

As Bennett shook hands with students and posed for photographs, some of 
the $100,000 worth of instruments were laid out on a table at KIPP 
Believe College Prep, a public charter school established after 
Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city in 2005. The school is 
one of five KIPP charter schools serving roughly 1,000 of the city's 
students since Katrina.

"This means instruments will be available to these students for years to 
come, to continue making music history in New Orleans," said Bennett, 
who was treated Thursday to performances of "Free Spirit Overture" and 
"My Funny Valentine" by the school's symphonic and jazz bands.

"These kids are amazing. What I heard today was real music. They played 
with feeling, with such heart," the 82-year-old Bennett said.

The donation effort was set in motion by a jazz fan from New York who 
won a "Big Give" contest hosted by Oprah Winfrey's magazine. The winner, 
Barry Jaffin, wanted to use his $5,000 in winnings to put instruments in 
New Orleans schools.

Bennett and a host of charitable groups such as Music Rising and the Mr. 
Holland's Opus Foundation got on board with the cause.

"We were all very excited," said 13-year-old Deon Butler, a 7th-grade 
trumpet player who performed in both the symphonic and jazz bands for 
Bennett. "Out of all the schools in the U.S., he came to hear us."

Bennett, a 15-time Grammy winner, released his signature "I Left My 
Heart in San Francisco" in 1962 and remains a popular performer.

Bennett was accompanied Thursday by his wife, Susan Benedetto, who runs 
the couple's New York-based Exploring the Arts program, which 
contributed to the instrument donation. On Friday, Bennett is slated to 
perform at Jazz Fest, which kicked off its second weekend Thursday.

School groups from all over the city were scattered across the festival 
grounds. Besides listening to music, the kids got some hands-on craft 
experience. Jared Wilkerson, a 4th-grader at Hynes Charter School in New 
Orleans, helped 67-year-old carpenter Ray Weimer cut a piece of cypress 
wood to make an old-fashioned roof shingle.

"That was fun," Wilkerson said, chuckling with schoolmates.

Jazz Fest veterans were also having a good time.

"Jazz Fest is my religion," said Nancy Gates, a Boston native who said 
she has not missed a Jazz Fest since 1988. "This is the mother of all 
festivals, the best festival in the world. It has the best food, the 
best music and the best crowd. I love it all."

For the Ulf family from Kensington, Md., the festival is the site of a 
family reunion each year. Parents David and Ellen Ulf fly to New Orleans 
with their 19-year-old son, Ryan, to visit their daughter, 24-year-old 
Ellen, who lives there.

"We always time the trip to catch Jazz Fest," Ellen Ulf said, as she 
handed out cochon de lait po-boys and alligator pies to the rest of the 
family in a shady spot under a tree near the Cajun and zydeco stage.

"We like this stage because we don't have music like this where we 
live," David Ulf said. "I can see Neil Young anywhere. I can only see 
Corey Ledet here."

Young is slated to perform on Sunday, the festival's closing day. 
Thursday's closing acts were guitarist Ben Harper, country singer 
Emmylou Harris and soul singer Marva Wright.

On the Net:
Jazz Fest,: http://nojazzfest.com
Tony Bennett,: http://www.tonybennett.net
Exploring the Arts,: http://www.exploringthearts.org
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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