The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation -- the nonprofit that owns Jazz Fest -- has a mission to promote Louisiana's musical culture through year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment.
The Foundation created Class Got Brass to address a conundrum.
Many, if not most of Louisiana's schools struggle to afford enough instruments to equip all of the students who want to learn how to play music.
Still, nearly all Louisiana high schools -- and many middle schools -- have active marching band programs.
But, historically, hardly any of them have had New Orleans-style brass bands -- even in this, the only region in the world where teen-agers love their joyous local culture of second-line parades.
So the Foundation established a contest to encourage Louisiana middle and high schools to create brass bands. They would compete in a second-line parade according to guidelines that encourage the essential elements of a centuries-old tradition. The winners would earn $30,000 worth of instruments for their schools' band programs.
Class Got Brass made it's debut in March 2012 and was a roaring success. More than a dozen Louisiana middle and high schools stepped up to the challenge.
A middle school, KIPP McDonogh 15, took the top prize of $10,000. O. Perry Walker High School won second place and $6,000. McDonogh 35 High School took third place, winning $4,000.
An additional 14 schools each got consolation prizes of $750 worth of instruments, instrument repair and other essential supplies.
2013: The Second Annual Competition
Now the Jazz & Heritage Foundation is launching the second of what will be an annual competition -- and a new tradition.
As in the first version, Class Got Brass is open to middle schools and high schools -- public and private -- anywhere in Louisiana.
Just as before, bands will be limited to 12 members -- only one bass drum, one snare drum and one tuba. All other instruments must be part of the recognized brass band tradition. And, as in the first Class Got Brass, schools are encouraged to augment their bands with "steppers," or dancers.
The finals will take the form of a second-line parade, with an all-star group of heroes from the New Orleans brass band scene serving as judges.
Once again, the prizes will be $10,000 for first place, $6,000 for second and $4,000 for third. The prizes will be in the form of gift certificates from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation that may be redeemed for instruments, instrument repair or other supplies that benefit the winning schools' band programs.
New In 2013
The second annual Class Got Brass will have a few new features.
Clinics will be organized for the participating schools, with top musicians educating the competitors in the finer points of the brass band tradition.
Also new this year will be an elimination round. Participating schools will gather on for a preliminary competition to narrow the field on a date to be announced.
And in a new addition to the guidelines, all competing bands must include a new required element: a dirge. This will be in addition to a traditional up-tempo song from the classic brass band cannon, as well as a contemporary song.
The finals will take place in a second-line parade on Sunday, March 24, in conjunction with the Foundation's Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival.
Match Our Funds - Increse the Prizes
Funding for the contest prizes comes from the Foundation's Community Partnership Grants program. Prizes are limited to available funds.
But the number of prizes may be increased - or the amounts of the prizes enlarged - through donations. If your organization would like to contribute funds to increase the number or size of prizes to be made available in this contest, please contact us.
QUESTIONS? Contact the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation by calling (504) 558-6100, or by sending an e-mail to: programs (at) jazzandheritage.org.