Yvonne Busch, a touring musician during her teenage years who returned to New Orleans to become an influential music teacher in the public school system, died Friday. She was 84.
Many of her students in the New Orleans school system would go on to be famous musicians. Among them were James Rivers, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, Herlin Riley, George Davis, Sullivan Dabney, Tony Bazley and John Boudreaux.
Busch was born in 1929 to a Ninth Ward family; they moved to the historic and musically rich Tremé neighborhood the following year. She attended Craig Elementary School, but later enrolled in the Piney Woods Country Life School, a boarding school in Piney Woods, Miss.
By the time she was 12, Busch was touring as a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm and the Swinging Rays of Rhythm, two all-female bands that got their start at the Piney Woods school.
She returned to New Orleans in 1943 and finished her high school studies at Gilbert Academy, a private school for African-American students. As a college student in Baton Rouge, she was the only woman in the Southern University Jazz Band.
She taught for 32 years in New Orleans public schools, including Booker T. Washington, Joseph S. Clark and George Washington Carver high schools. She was the subject of a documentary, “A Legend in the Classroom: The Life Story of Ms. Yvonne Busch,” produced and directed by Leonard Smith III, one of her former band students at Carver. She also is the subject of a chapter in the book “Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans,” by Al Kennedy.
A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. David Catholic Church, 5617 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans.
Visitation will begin at 8 a.m. Burial will be at Providence Memorial Park and Mausoleum, 8200 Airline Drive, Metairie. A repast will held in the St. David Hall.