Day 1 in New Orleans

Left Boston in a 20 degree chill that whipped so hard my face hurt.  Ah, New Orleans. Gleaming sunshine.  Temps in the mid 60s feel like deep summer coming from a Boston chill.

Here to work the media.  Have a great story to tell about how Berklee is making educational investments in New Orleans.  We have an after-school music program at Tipitina’s that in September became the seventh site in the Berklee City Music Network.  Have the annual Audition and Interview (A/I) session at NOCCA on Saturday with 35 amazing students who want to be on the Boston campus this summer or fall.  This event determines if they’ll be admitted and receive financial assistance.  Most people I engage like the scholarship angle.  I’ve got some things secured for Friday for the Network story.  Calling and e-mailing still for A/I on Saturday.

First stop today was at WLAE-TV, the New Orleans PBS station.  They liked my angle when I pitched it for their Road to Recoverynews program, but they had bigger plans in mind.  I met a few members of the production team and we batted around ideas on how to make this a longer story, perhaps a 30-minute special, or a short series.  Everyone agrees that a story of talented Berklee hopefuls who audition and interview for admission and assistance offers a great plot and probably some emotional twists.  We volley ideas for a while.  There is an agreement to meet in Boston in April.  The meeting had great energy, but so don’t many of these.  Either side could back away as the discussions continue.  Still, I like the creativity snapping back and forth between the people in the room, and the energy of a conversation that stays on topic for almost 45 minutes.  Whatever happens in this scenario, the story already commanded an audience.

Next I drive to Tipitina’s to meet the program director and see the famed club and the Network site.  I learn more from Erin Frankenheimer about the course that our alum Donald Harrison teaches there, and how the Network has taken it to a new level but still hasn’t brought the full benefit to the students. The relationship brings two summer scholarships for their kids.  An online music theory component hasn’t been plugged-in yet due to scarce funds.  Not sure if the partnership or Donald brought the dream of attending Berklee to kids there, but they have it. 

Erin is busy there, lots of responsibilities.  Hoping I’m not overwhelming her with three PR tasks for Friday.  We run through who should take which pieces of the story for the next day’s interviews.  Probably doesn’t matter anyway; in my experience, reporters always centralize the kids in the story, and this is not because we don’t give good soundbites.  It’s because Berklee students typically are so driven to succeed at their music that they have absorbed all related knowledge and cultural references at an age when optimism has no horizon.  They draw you in like a cut from your longest favored CD (or album, or whatever).  I tell her that I think she has a great insight to the program at only her second week on the job, and that any interview will take its own course, anyway.