I came on the Gracenotes Rebuilding the Birthplace of Jazz trip with the unique point of view of a former resident of pre-Katrina New Orleans. From the first night, my Berklee teammates asked me what had changed since I had last lived there in the year 2000. Continue reading
So today is our last night here in New Orleans and there is so much to talk about it is hard to put everything I have experienced into words. My name is Matt Frias and this was my first trip to New Orleans. I have always wanted to travel here to experience the culture, music and excitement that it brings. Ever since Katrina, I have wanted to come down and help rebuild the city in any way that I could. Since Katrina was 8 years ago, I was expecting to see many of the homes to be rebuilt and lived in. When we arrived at the Habitat house in the 7th ward, I was shocked to see that the lot across the street and the lot next door were completely abandoned. There are many reasons that contribute to this but the devastation after Katrina played a significant part.
Our cab driver, Mo, informed us that about 400,000 people have not returned to the city since Katrina. We took a cab ride tour of the Musician’s Village that Habitat helped build. We also saw the lower 9th ward where Brad Pitt has rebuilt many homes. Even with these rebuilt parts of the city there are still many homes completely destroyed and abandoned.
Working with the Habitat Family receiving the home was so fulfilling. I personally worked with Roshand and Jayson on Friday putting up siding on the house. It was great to see the two interact and find out about their lives and kids. They are a great couple and made me laugh a ton. Apparently, my Boston accent made them laugh as well as they called me out on it every time I said something ending in r. It was also great to see Roshand’s dad come out and help on Saturday with his dreadlocks and renditions of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love”.
It was a treat speaking to the gentleman that lives 2 doors down from Roshand and Jayson’s future home. He let us all use his hose for water and pet his terrier dog “Mickey”. He told me about how the water reached 8 feet near his house from Katrina. This gentleman was like many of the people we met, welcoming and very appreciative of what we were here to do.
It is hard to leave when you see so much more work needs to be done not only to Roshand and Jayson’s house, but also the neighborhoods surrounding their house. I did the most work I could do in the little time given and feel great about the work we did accomplish here. I left my sweat all over that house, from the roof, attic, siding, even beneath the house.
The trip was also very culturally rewarding. New Orleans is unlike any place I have visited before, from the unbelievable music, cuisine, and arts. Many people come here for partying on Bourbon Street, but there is so much more. We worked many hours per day, but had some time to enjoy the food each night, some live music at Preservation Hall, the Garden District, and just plain old good times with good people that I seldom or rarely interact with in our everyday lives at Berklee. It was great to get to know and work with Maria, Matthias, Lesley, Kathleen, Benai, and Joe for a few days. I know I feel I have made 6 new friends on this trip.
I am so glad I had this opportunity to help rebuild one of the most unique cities I have ever been to in my entire life. Even if what we did is a small fraction of what needs to be done, it was so rewarding to know I had a small hand in helping out a family and city that still needs some help. Thank you Berklee for letting me be part of such an extraordinary and life changing trip.
Hi I’m Matthias Lupri. Thanks to Berklee and the Gracenotes committee for sending a team once again down to New Orleans. It was a full week to help out with the rebuilding from the devastation of hurricane Katrina, through the organization Habitat for Humanity. I have been here a few times for jazz events, but all prior to this horrible tragedy. It is very clear that much help is still needed here in this very colorful city of French Creole flair.
“Home is the nicest word there is.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder
The notion of home. It’s something most of us take for granted. The literal, structural part, at least. Until now, when I looked at a wall in a house, I saw a wall. I didn’t see the bones that held it, that made it so.
Now, after four days of working on a Habitat for Humanity house in New Orleans’ 7th Ward with a team of Berklee faculty and staff, I am more conscious of the fact that each individual nail has to be put in its place by a human hand. I am more aware of the framing and insulation and drywall. I don’t think I will look at a wall the same again.
But as we nailed and measured and sawed and painted, we knew this wasn’t just about building a house. This was about creating a home for a family who couldn’t otherwise afford one. Working alongside these homeowners was a powerful and moving experience.
Larry O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin met at an improv audition at Harvard University. The pair has been making magic ever since and have gone on to create musicals such as Cam Jansen, The Mice, Sarah Plain and Tall, and Life of the Party.
O’Keefe and Benjamin visited Berklee’s 1140 building on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 for an intimate and candid discussion about how to become a successful writer and composer in the musical theater industry. The dynamic duo represents the first artists to participate in the Curtain Up visiting artist series. The Curtain Up concert is an annual concert featuring the winning songs of the Curtain Up Musical Theater Songwriting Contest. It was held in the David Friend Recital Hall on April 1; Larry and Nell attended and were able to offer some feedback to the students who attended the clinic.
O’Keefe ‘93 has made a name for himself in the musical theater community. Earning an education from USC, Harvard, and Berklee, he honed his skills to create works like the Drama Desk Award-nominated Bat Boy: The Musical, which ran off-Broadway in 2001. This production received an Outer Critics’ Circle Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical.
O’Keefe is very busy working on multiple projects, including Andy, which will feature Steve Carell and which is based on the musical Annie, and an adaptation of the novel Heathers into Heathers: The Musical, which will be opening up in Los Angeles.
Benjamin’s television credits include the last and weirdest season of Unhappily Ever After, Animal Planet’s Whoa!, Sunday with Mo Rocca, and the new Electric Company. She received the 2003 Kleban Foundation Award for lyrics and a 2003 Jonathan Larson Foundation grant. She is currently working on a musical adaptation of Because of Winn Dixie with Duncan Sheik and on Pirates!, a witty adaptation of Pirates of Penzance.
For anyone who has a hard time writing melodies or knowing when (or when not) to edit a piece…this clinic was for you. Personally, I have a hard time with melody manipulation and song structure when I’m writing and they answered questions with clarity and examples. After talking with Larry and Nell after the clinic, I was inspired and motivated to pick up the script I had been writing (one that I had previously put away for good), revisit it, and bring some new life to it.