Joshua Nuss studied opera singing as an undergraduate. “As a slight man with the bass voice, few parts were written for me, so I went to graduate school in nonprofit administration.” Josh came to New Orleans to be Development Associate for the Ellis Marsalis Center at Musician’s Village.
Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis conceived of Musician’s Village as a way for the musical world to lift The Big Easy out of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. The 72 homes, built by Habitat for Humanity, plus the $8 million center for music education and performance have spurred redevelopment of New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, which opened in 2012, is a nonprofit enterprise with eight full-time employees, 25 part-time staff, and 300 students.
Students, all from the Ninth Ward, attend the center from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. five days a week. Each takes four classes, “One in your chosen instrument, one in piano and theory, a homework tutorial, and a computer lab. Brass is really popular, but we stress that learning other instruments can make the bridge to professional musician easier.” There are also a few vocal students and dancers, who follow a different curriculum.
The Ellis Marsalis Center includes music classrooms, a piano lab, computer lab, dance studio, and state-of-the-art AV room where teen students, paid interns sponsored by the City of New Orleans, learn technical performance and recording skills. The jewel of the center is a 300-seat performance space for student recitals and performances by global artists.
The Ellis Marsalis Center grooms musicians for lives that will span far beyond the Ninth Ward. It guides many aspects of these talented, though impoverished, students’ lives. At the end of every school day, the center provides a meal. “Once a month we have a catered meal served in the main hall where students practice etiquette. Students from the Ellis Marsalis Center are invited to many outside events; we expect them to be at home anywhere in the world.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“It’s got to be together. The (presidential) debate last night showed we can’t do it without each other. In New Orleans, we depended on the rest of the world in the 2000s to keep us going. This facility is funded by all 50 states and international organizations. The outside community created us and put us on the map. Only now can we begin to tap our own city’s resources.
“I don’t see how someone could have lived through Katrina and think we can do it alone. People don’t appreciate other people and what they can do. They expect too much.”