New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park celebrates Quintessential American Music
Jazz Festivals are a staple in New Orleans. (TheGriot.com Photo.)
Take in a classic jazz concert with Wendell Brunious and his band performing at the Old U.S. Mint. (NPS Photo)
By Audrey Peterman
Welcome to Day #224 of our “365 Parks in 365 Days” adventure.
I’m off to Washington, DC early this morning for a parks-related meeting, and I could hardly be happier to find that the park on my mind this morning is one of the most iconic in the system. The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park celebrates the place where jazz emerged and its evolution into the quintessential music of American culture.
New Orleans conjures up images of a roaring good time as Black musicians brought their talent to the fore and new feelings of inspiration and liberation ran through the population. How the music has evolved from the early 1900s to today – well, I wouldn’t presume to touch that, especially since my longtime friend Joan Cartwright who takes these tours with us is an internationally known jazz diva and scholar who has written and spoken copiously on the subject.
Jazz being as organic to New Orleans as gumbo, the annual Essence Music Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, among others, draw hundreds of thousands of people to celebrate the music and culture. I haven’t been to any of the festivals yet and I haven’t visited this park, yet the beauty of it being in the National Park System means that I can find verified information at the website, and the uniform high quality experience that I might expect in Yellowstone. Thank you, National Park System and National Park Service.
Feeling generally celebratory this morning, thank you for these comments over the past few weeks:
“I have been following your blog/journal entries for quite some time now. Thank you for the education, inspiration, boldness of character, and most of all honesty. . . You are truly a ‘National Treasure’ and you make me proud. Thank you again my Sister.”
“It is so nice to see the urban parks and people featured in your blogs. I appreciate and continue to be amazed by your dedication and passion for sharing our nation’s parks and public lands. Best to you this lovely fall morning!”
“You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for continuing your remarkable 365 parks in 365 days. I’m learning about and ‘meeting’ more people via your blog than any other possible venue. Thank you for creating such a community!”
“I want to refer to the idea of getting Betty (Soskin) and Shelton (Johnson) in front of the Black Caucus. That is a marvelous idea. I hope it can get done. Let’s get Gillian (Bowser) in front of them too…”
“Thank you for including Paul Robeson’s residence in your ‘365 Parks’ series. He was the most accomplished student and athlete to ever attend my alma mater, Rutgers University, in its 248 year history. All of us who graduate from Rutgers try in some small way to continue his work as a humanitarian, scholar and advocate for social justice.”
“You set out to educate us about national treasures and became one, literally embodying the adage, ‘be the change you want to see.'”
Wow! Everyone of us has influence within our own sphere. How we choose to use it is the only question.
Knowing the high esteem in which this art form is held around the country and the many jazz purists there are, I’ll confine myself to pointing out the uniquely park-related aspects.
For example, this park’s website is the only one in the system that I recall seeing music that is both specific to the park and for sale, including Songs for Junior Rangers, Songs of the Lower Mississippi Delta and Freedom is Coming: Songs of Freedom, Resistance, & the Underground Railroad.
“Experience Jazz Music Where it all Began
“Only in New Orleans could there be a National Park for jazz!
“Jazz was born in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century, a combination of many musical styles, including blues, gospel and ragtime. The originality of the art form came from its focus on improvisation.
“Numerous musicians were key players in the development and progression of New Orleans jazz. Culture, ethnicity, neighborhoods, and families all played a role in shaping each performers contribution to the music. Explore these short profiles of New Orleans jazz pioneers and learn how each one shaped the music.
“Jazz History Walking Tours Explore six New Orleans neighborhoods and their connection to jazz history. These self-guided maps highlight venues, businesses and homes important in New Orleans music history. The park has also created two separate jazz history audio tours with accompanying brochures that are available on the park homepage. The Jazz Walk of Fame is located in Algiers Point and our jazz history audio tour is located in or around the French Quarter. Both tours can be downloaded as mp3 files, or you can listen to the narrations and music by dialing 504-613-4062 and entering the tour stop number.
“The New Orleans Jazz NHP has collected oral histories from over 200 New Orleans musicians, and the work continues. Oral history interviews can currently be viewed at the Williams Research Center or the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University.
“Drop by our French Market visitor center to inquire about musical events around town. In the mood for a world class musical experience? Attend a jazz concert or ranger performance at the new state of the art performance venue in the Old U.S. Mint.. .”
If you haven’t seen this side of New Orleans, I invite you to explore a very unique until of our National Park System. Now I ‘m off to catch that plane!
If you’ve missed any of our “365 Parks in 365 Days” adventures, find them here (Archive)