Wynton Marsalis doesn’t get back to his native city too often, but he treasures the occasional visit.
“It’s always a pleasure to come home,” he said. “Especially when it’s for a good cause.”
On Sunday, July 27 the globe-trotting, multi-award-winning trumpeter and composer will bring Marsalis’ 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to the Saenger Theatre for a fundraising performance for the Tipitina’s Foundation.
The evening will feature a Patron Party in the theater’s VIP Lounge with cuisine provided by Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona Restaurant fame.
Proceeds will benefit the music programs offered by the Tipitina’s Foundation, promoting childhood music education, the professional development of adult musicians and the increased profile and viability of Louisiana music as a cultural, educational and economic resource.
Partnering in the event will be the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orpheum Theater.
The Orpheum, built in 1918 and damaged and shuttered by Hurricane Katrina, was purchased earlier this year by two of the foundation’s co-founders, Roland von Kurnatowski and Eric George.
It was LPO’s home venue prior to the storm, and the orchestra will return to it when the facility reopens, possibly by the summer of 2015.
“I feel great about doing this with a fantastic band,” Marsalis said. “We’ve got so many great musicians playing New Orleans-inflected music. We’ll be playing some of Louis Armstrong’s songs, some of Duke Ellington’s, and some of our own music. For any jazz musician, New Orleans is like the mecca of the music.”
Bethany Paulsen, executive director of the Tipitina’s Foundation, echoed the sentiments.
“It’s going to be a fabulous opportunity for people in New Orleans to see these jazz greats coming back to town. We’re all really excited about the opportunity to bring this to the community.”
Founded in 2003, the foundation is a not-for-profit charity that has donated more than $2.7 million worth of musical instruments to about 80 New Orleans area schools through its “Instruments A Comin’” program.
The foundation also offers mentoring programs that teach young people to learn about and play music, while providing internships, scholarships and other musically related services for the city’s youth.
Among the beneficiaries of a four-year scholarship from the foundation is guitarist Hunter Burgamy, a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“It’s been a beautiful opportunity and the reputation of Tipitina’s is very high,” Burgamy said, adding that several other students at Berklee are also attending on foundation scholarships.
Burgamy had high words of praise for renowned New Orleans saxophonist, Donald Harrison, chair of the foundation’s internship program. “He is a master musician and a great mentor. I am forever grateful and in debt to the people at Tipitina’s for making this happen for me,” Burgamy said.
Additionally, the foundation has helped provide services and resources, including the latest technology, to older professional musicians through a network of music office co-ops in New Orleans and six other major population centers throughout Louisiana.
“Those are also the areas where we’re expanding our youth programs,” Paulsen explained.
The foundation takes its name from the famous music club at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street which, in turn, took its name from a piano-driven song by Professor Longhair.
“We’re really grateful to have this opportunity to bring in Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for this event,” Paulsen said. “To have a group of this caliber coming to New Orleans in support of the foundation is really a wonderful thing. It’s going to be a great concert that anyone who’s familiar with Wynton’s music will really enjoy.”