NEW ORLEANS — For 27 years, the Jazz Foundation of America has quietly helped to rebuild the lives of musicians snagged by disasters like the unprecedented flooding that swamped Louisiana in August.
On Tuesday, the foundation announced a pledge to raise $1 million for musicians in immediate and ongoing need following this flood, which damaged more than 60,000 homes, displaced 20,000 people and contributed to 13 deaths in the state.
“Louisiana is the birthplace of American music — everything we’ve listened to for the last 100 years has its roots in jazz and blues — and these musicians give us the soundtrack to our lives, so it is imperative that we do all we can to offer our support,” said Wendy Oxenhorn, the foundation’s executive director.
Those affected by the flooding need help even more now that waters have receded, she said.
“That’s when the hard work begins,” Oxenhorn said. “So, we’re inviting those who love this music and these fearless and resilient musicians to join us in this effort to get them back on their feet.”
Harry Anderson, a bassist and director of the Alvin Batiste Jazz Institute Program at Southern University in Baton Rouge, said he’s not sure what he would have done without the foundation’s assistance after ankle deep water flowed through his home in Zachary.
Initially, he said he was not going to gut his home; he figured the damage would not be as devastating as that caused by the several feet of water some of his friends got swamped by. But the foundation convinced him to make sure quick-growing mold hadn’t set in, and he’s forever grateful that he listened.
“The flood was a blessing in disguise because when we were tearing out the walls and cutting out the insulation and drywall, we ended up finding out that shortcuts were taken in the building of the home. We had to remove the siding, which was made with a recalled material, and we found a lot of rotten wood in the 2X4s,” he said.
“The wall behind the kitchen sick covered rotten wood all the way up to the ceiling. It’s taken a lot more time than we thought,” he said. “It’s almost a new construction project.”
Anderson said the JFA has eased his family’s financial pressure by helping to pay his mortgage and electric bills.
Drummer Phil Washington, 30, of Baton Rouge, got about 5½ feet of water in the home he shares with his wife and 8-month-old son. They had just finished painting the nursery when the river behind their house rose up and inundated their home.
“We lost everything,” recalled Washington, who is a music director for a church that also flooded. “We weren’t able to get anything out.”
Washington plays with a lot of different musicians, but he said his income dropped from about $2,300 a month before the flood to less than $400 after. Fortunately for his family, the foundation came calling.
“Within two days of the flood happening, someone with JFA contacted us and provided food, milk, diapers; they also helped pay my mortgage and car note. They’ve been wonderful.”