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Branford Marsalis and father, Ellis Marsalis, join Habitat for Humanity to announce Musicians’ Village

Branford Marsalis and father, Ellis Marsalis, join Habitat for Humanity to announce Musicians’ Village

NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 6, 2005) – Since hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced many musicians to flee New Orleans, the jazz, blues and Dixieland that were the city’s musical score have been harder to find, as have the musicians who seek to return but, like so many, have no place to go.

Habitat for Humanity and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, working with Harry Connick Jr., and Branford Marsalis, honorary chairs of the organization’s hurricane rebuilding program Operation Home Delivery, seek to change that, announcing plans Tuesday, Dec. 6, for a “Musicians’ Village” in the Crescent City.

The Musicians’ Village, conceived by Connick and Marsalis, will consist of Habitat-constructed homes for displaced New Orleans musicians. Its centerpiece will be the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, dedicated to the education and development of homeowners and others who will live nearby.

It is named for the patriarch of the Marsalis clan, modern jazz pioneer and native New Orleanian. The center will have as its focus the celebration of the music and musicians of New Orleans and will include performance rooms and classrooms.

“Music is as much a part of the fabric of life in New Orleans as the cuisine, the culture,” said Marsalis, the award-winning saxophonist and native New Orleanian. “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.”

To the news that he will be honored with the naming of the community center, Ellis Marsalis said, “I am humbled and proud to have a role in the rebirth of this great city.”

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin will join Ellis and Branford Marsalis and representatives from Habitat for Humanity’s New Orleans affiliate, including Jim Pate and Chris Gordon, executive director and president of the board of directors for the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity affiliate for the announcement, which will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Mayor’s Press Room in the Sheraton Hotel, 500 Canal St., New Orleans, La.

“This is a very exciting day for New Orleans and for Habitat for Humanity,” said Ken Meinert, Habitat’s senior vice president for Operation Home Delivery. “New Orleans, which has a cultural and architectural richness, is unique among so many of the cities in America. And many are asking today, ‘Will New Orleans be rebuilt?’

“Today, we are here to help answer that question, and to be a part of that answer. New Orleans will recover, it will be rebuilt, and we at Habitat for Humanity are excited to be a part of it with this announcement.”

Seed money for the Musicians’ Village is coming from proceeds from the historic “From the Big Apple To The Big Easy” benefit concerts, held at both Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 20, which have been directed toward this effort as part of the event’s overall commitment to support the long-term rebuilding efforts of the Gulf Coast region.

“This is very exciting because it uses the Habitat model – building homes and communities – and takes it a step farther, to helping build hope for the future,” said Connick. “ Children will grow up in the neighborhoods, in a safe and secure environment, and at the same time have the opportunity to become a part of the musical and cultural scene in New Orleans.”

“We believe this will help breathe life into an historic New Orleans neighborhood suitable to the re-migration of our valuable musician families,” said Pate. More money will be needed, and a fund-raising effort is planned, he added, but “this donation from Madison Square Garden, and the support of native sons such as Harry (Connick) and Branford (Marsalis) will help give it momentum and make it happen.”

As Habitat works to raise additional money, it will also be working with the music community to identify local musicians who are willing to partner with Habitat to help build their homes and to pay a no-profit mortgage. “This is Habitat’s traditional partner family model,” said Meinert, “but it is focused on helping musicians of modest resources who were affected by the hurricanes.”

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, said Jonathan Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International.

About New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1983, is an autonomous Louisiana non-profit corporation that serves the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. John the Baptist. In its 22-year history, NOAHH has built over 100 Habitat homes, including 50 in the past five years. www.habitat-nola.org.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for one million people. www.habitat.org .