Illuminating Our Jazz Legacy

November 01, 2019
As Louis Armstrong aptly claimed, “To jazz or not to jazz, there is no question!” The New Orleans Jazz Museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the origin, evolution, and legacy of jazz and its continuing relevance. Plans to originate the museum began in the 1950s by a collaborative group of New Orleans collectors and enthusiasts of the New Orleans Jazz Club. The original site opened in 1961 but relocated to various French Quarter buildings over the years. In 1977, the entire collection was donated to the people of Louisiana. In the early 1980s, the collection went on exhibit at the Old U.S. Mint built in 1938. The collection includes 12,000 historic photos, Louis Armstrong’s first cornet, a 1917 disc of the first jazz recording, and the world's largest collection of instruments owned and played by iconic figures in jazz. There you will find Sidney Bechet’s soprano saxophone, Edward “Kid” Ory’s trombone, George Lewis’ clarinet, Warren “Baby” Dodds’ drum kit, performance costumes, original manuscripts, historic recordings and rare film footage and thousands of irreplaceable treasures.

The museum’s mission is to celebrate the history of jazz through dynamic interactive exhibits, educational programming, research facilities, and musical performances, exploring America’s quintessential musical art form in the city where jazz was born. It tells the story of jazz from its African-American origins, its illustrious rebirth in New Orleans, and links the cultural connections, artistic expressions, musical innovators, and global influence of the genre, enabling visitors to understand this uniquely American art form. The museum’s education programs include music lessons, instrument building workshops, appearances from guest musicians, and instruction in recording technologies. It provides access to its world-class collection and research facilities and links their audio collections to its website. Regular classes of pilates, yoga, and meditation in the museum bring together jazz history with exercise and relaxation, improving the connection between body and mind. Additionally, the museum hosts many forums, conferences, celebrations, and festivals, drawing large crowds of music-loving residents and tourists.

The museum is currently producing a series of alternating exhibits and is in the process of a major expansion of its exhibit space. Future programming will include new educational initiatives engaging K-12 schools, universities, and adults in lifelong learning opportunities. The new space will include a visitor orientation center, a main exhibit space for permanent displays, classrooms for youth and family education, a rotating special exhibits gallery, a museum store and café, a sculpture garden, and four interactive technology areas for guests to create and share their own forms of jazz. The Jazz Museum is committed to furthering the legacy of jazz by identifying and cultivating young talent through master classes and mentorship.

On December 5-7th and just in time for holiday festivities, the New Orleans Jazz Museum and Arts Council of New Orleans will present a free celebration, Sound Collage at the Jazz Museum: A LUNA Fête Celebration of Light and Music. It will feature illuminated installations, digital sculptures, video-mapping projections, art animated by technology, and musical performances to engage and inspire audiences of all ages. New Orleans Jazz Museum’s historic architecture will be transformed into a playground of light, art, and music!

Want to help the Jazz Museum in their endeavors? Join us at the Improvisations Gala on December 7th for an elegant evening featuring live performances by premier New Orleans musicians. Enjoy gourmet local cuisine and open bar libations, complimentary portraits by legendary local photographers, a fabulous silent auction, and experience the many jazz and art exhibitions within the museum, as well as the LUNA Fête display outside. Proceeds benefit the New Orleans Jazz Museum expansion, keeping the legacy of jazz alive through the development of our next generation of musicians.