Jazz Fest Set to Kick Off Friday

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 in Local Issues

Jazz Fest 2012 is set to begin Friday and run through Sunday, picking back up again May 3-6. This year’s lineup includes mostly Louisiana acts accented with national headliners such as Bon Iver, the Beach Boys, the Eagles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Cee Lo Green, Ne-Yo, Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett.

Terrance "Trombone Shorty" Osborne graces the 2012 Jazz Fest poster

In its humble beginnings, the festival featured only a handful of acts and drew only about 350 people to Congo Square. Now, more than 40 years later, a gigantic crowd packs the Fair Grounds Race Course. In recent years, the festival has drawn nearly 400,000 visitors over the course of the two weekends.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the nonprofit New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which works to fulfill the festival’s grass-roots mission to stimulate the music culture in Louisiana and reinvest in the community with music education programs, said Don Marshall, the foundation’s director. The festival’s growth has allowed the foundation to provide $500,000 in grants each year to other nonprofit organizations supporting the arts, as well as to writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers and education programs.

“I haven’t seen another model like this anywhere,” Marshall said. “This festival has grown to the point where we’re able to generate revenue that allows us to establish free music education programs, housing initiatives and lecture series. One of the best things we do is the grant program.”

The foundation is also set to begin in November renovating a 12,500-square-foot funeral home purchased four years ago and turn it into a music school. The building, located in the city’s historic Treme neighborhood, is in the same block as the foundation’s headquarters.

When the $8.5 million renovation is complete, it will be home to the Heritage School of Music, which is currently housed at Dillard University. The school, including seven classrooms and a 200-seat performance hall, is expected to open at its new location in the fall of 2013, Marshall said.

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