It’s more than music.
New Orleans remembers the legacy of Louis Armstrong at Satchmo SummerFest with a series of free seminars, second-line parades and an expanded children’s area. It all looks at the more personal side of the city’s beloved Pops.
“Louis Armstrong’s music is enriching, exciting and fun — an endless river of artistic excellence,” said Mick Carlon, author of “Travels With Louis” and “Riding on Duke’s Train,” who will be presenting at Satchmo Seminars and Pops’ Playhouse for Kids.
“He truly lived a life worthy of study. Naturally, his was a once-in-a-century talent, but we can all strive to be as kind, generous, funny and humble as Pops,” Carlon said. “The man knew his worth as an artist, but that didn’t stop him from, in his words, ‘knowing how to treat and respect the feelings of other people.’ ”
Although music is a major component of the festival, the Satchmo Seminars have become an integral part of the annual celebrations.
“We have scholars that come here from all over the country to share their knowledge, all of which is related to Armstrong. They are a very important component of the event,” said Rebecca Sell, marketing and publicity manager at French Quarter Festival Inc.
Over 20 seminars, which are free and open to the public, will be held in the Old U.S. Mint throughout the three-day festival. The seminar series gets underway with Duke University music professor Thomas Brothers at 11:30 a.m. on Friday
“Professor Thomas Brothers is coming in to talk about his new book, ‘Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism,’ ” Sell said. “It delves into the 1920s, which was a really transformative period in Armstrong’s life. He left New Orleans, went to Chicago and ended up becoming a huge star.”
Topics vary widely.
Local scholar Bruce Raeburn, from Tulane University, will debunk the myth behind Storyville, while Carlon will give a seminar titled “Disciples of Pops,” discussing his friendship with Jack Bradley, a photographer and close friend of Armstrong, and Ruby Braff, a cornetist, who lived and breathed Louis Armstrong in every solo he played.
Carlon also will read passages from his novel and teach kids how to speak like the famously gravelly voiced musician at the “Learning from Louis” section at Pops’ Playhouse for Kids at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“With Pops’ Playhouse for Kids, we came up with a lot of really great organizations who teach children about New Orleans traditions,” Sell said. “For example, we have Zulu coconut-decorating with the junior Zulus, music instrument-making and new this year is Satchmo Book Nook.”
Pops’ Playhouse also will feature a collage-making project, Junior Jazz Rangers, hosted by National Parks Services, and a second-line umbrella decoration and celebration station.
“Kids can decorate their own second-line umbrella and then use it in the second-line parade. They leave the museum and parade around the festival ground,” Sell said.
The children’s second-line parade will take place from 2:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Arrive early and decorate your own umbrella to keep and use it in the second-line parade led by the Treme Brass Band on Saturday and Mahogany on Sunday. Meet on the second floor of the Old U.S. Mint at 2 p.m.
Two more parades will form over the weekend. The opening-day parade will take place Friday morning and will depart from Washington Artillery Park at 10:40 a.m. Also, the festival’s signature event, Jazz Mass at St. Augustine Church, will be followed by a second-line.
“The church is so historic and so significant. You are clapping your hands and you are on your feet. It is so energizing and beautiful,” Sell said. “It is a Jazz Mass, so it is a musical worship service. It is a little nontraditional. It’s open to the public, but seats are taken very quickly so we highly recommend people come early.”