Class Got Brass Photography Exhibit

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Event Information:

Notes: Saturday, Feb. 4, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission: Free
Location: The Jazz & Heritage Gallery
1205 N. Rampart Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
Phone: (504) 558-6100
Website: View Event Website

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The students of Dolores T. Aaron Middle School preparing to perform at the 2016 Class Got Brass.

The students of Dolores T. Aaron Middle School preparing to perform at the 2016 Class Got Brass.


The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation presents an opening reception for a new exhibition of photography by Eli Mergel. His images document the drama and passion of the Foundation's Class Got Brass program, a contest for middle school and high school brass bands.

The opening reception takes place Saturday, Feb. 4, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Jazz & Heritage Gallery, 1205 N. Rampart Street.

The exhibition showcases some 30 images taken by Eli Mergel at the Class Got Brass competition between 2014 and 2016. The super-high resolution, black and white images capture the drama, joy and community spirit of the New Orleans brass band traditional generally, and the Class Got Brass initiative in particular.

The exhibition is supported with a Community Partnership Grant from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

The exhibition will be on display through March 3. The Jazz & Heritage Gallery's regular opening hours are Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About Eli Mergel
Born 1976, Eli Mergel lives and works in New Orleans. Eli began his photography career in New York City in the early 2000s, just when digital photography started taking off. His photography in New York, including panoramas of the city, has been featured in TV shows, commercials, magazines and books. After moving to New Orleans in 2012, Eli immersed himself in the city’s famous street and nightlife culture. Instead of showcasing buildings and skylines as he did in New York, Eli now focuses on what makes New Orleans truly unique: its people.

A passionate advocate for the brass band tradition as well as music education, Eli has been enraptured with the Jazz & Heritage Foundation's Class Got Brass initiative. Since the program’s inception in 2012, he has documented the annual Class Got Brass competition with a highly artistic flair.

Artist’s Statement:
Class Got Brass is enthralling. Seeing students getting ready to play the brass band music that is their birthright, but that usually isn’t taught in schools. Seeing them interacting with kids from other schools, warming up, “cutting” each other.

It's an overload of your senses. It's loud, all over the place, dancing, food, music - everything this city is. Then the performances start. Huge crowd. Big cheers. Kids, smiling and proud.

It wasn’t until after I saw Class Got Brass for the first time that I found out the event's goal, to keep the brass band tradition alive and get it back into the schools. I knew immediately that this was one of the most important events in the city. Culturally and musically it's energetic, magical, appropriate, and so on the pulse. But what really interests me are the moments just before or just after a performance. I love the exhilaration of finally doing the work you practiced so hard to accomplish. The raw nerves, the warmup, seeing students steel their hearts, get ready and go.

I hope you enjoy the show. I sure did.

I believe you’re an ambassador to your time and place if you choose to take photos. You have a duty to show the world you see in the light you want it portrayed. I choose to showcase the amazing human spirit that exists here against all odds.

-Eli Mergel

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.