With Harry Connick Jr. on the piano and Branford Marsalis on clarinet, New Orleans’ native sons began the first-ever performance at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, playing Louis Armstrong’s “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.” The performance marked the music center’s grand opening, which is nestled within Musicians’ Village of New Orleans’ once-hurricane ravaged Upper Ninth Ward.
Fittingly, the two ‘know what it means to miss New Orleans.’
“It’s hard to sit in silence, to watch one’s youth wash away,” Connick told SUCCESS magazine for its September 2011 cover story. “Everything I have… is because of this great, fair city.”
Opening the Ellis Marsalis Center, named for the city’s influential pianist and educator, is the culmination of the Habitat for Humanity project that began in March 2006, just seven months after Hurricane Katrina. The center’s performance space, recording facility, classrooms and computer facilities are available to area students and Musicians’ Village residents, many of whom are displaced musicians who came to the village seeking affordable housing.
“We’ll connect music and theater, music and dance, including hip hop, films and the visual arts,” says Branford Marsalis, one of Ellis’s sons and co-founder of the center along with Connick. “Our idea is to offer not just music but computer literacy, Mardi Gras Indian culture, dance and more in one place.”
In this video from the Ellis Marsalis Center, Connick and Marsalis describe how the center evolved from an abandoned parking lot.