It Takes A Musicians’ Village

Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis are joining forces with Habitat for Humanity to create a “Musicians’ Village” in New Orleans that will construct homes for displaced musicians around the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

The Center will include performance and classroom space and is named for the Marsalis family patriarch, a modern jazz icon and native New Orleanian.

“Music is as much a part of the fabric of life in New Orleans as the cuisine, the culture,” said Branford Marsalis, himself an award-winning saxophonist. “Katrina and Rita scattered musicians across the country, and shuttered many clubs and concert venues across the city.”

“This plan, this village will help restore New Orleans’ musical heritage and protect it for the next generation that will follow,” he added, noting that it’s “also the beginning of Habitat’s return to work in the city, which will see hundreds of houses built in the years to come to help hurricane recovery and beyond.”

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin joined reps from Habitat for Humanity’s New Orleans affiliate for a December 6th press conference announcing the ambitious project. In addition to the Ellis Marsalis Center, Habitat for Humanity hopes to build 250 to 500 homes over a four-parish area.

More than $2 million has been raised for the Musicians’ Village including proceeds from the historic “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy” benefit concerts held at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall September 20th.

“This is very exciting because it uses the Habitat model – building homes and communities – and takes it a step farther, to helping hope for the future,” Connick said.

The singer said four or five of the 16 musicians in his own band lost their homes.

In addition to the “Big Apple to the Big Easy” donation, other fund-raising efforts are in the works. Habitat for Humanity has named Connick and Marsalis honorary co-chairs for the project, dubbed Operation Home Delivery.

Habitat will also work with the NOLA music community to identify partners to assist in building homes and offer a non-profit mortgage.

Funds raised through recordings such as Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now, a collaboration CD by the Recording Industry Association of America, and Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast, a compilation CD by Nonesuch Records, will also benefit Musicians’ Village, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford said.