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2019 Class Got Brass Winners Announced

2019 Class Got Brass Winners Announced

19 Schools Compete for $47,000 Worth of Instruments

Edna Karr High School of New Orleans took top honors and a prize of $10,000 at the eighth annual Class Got Brass competition for school brass bands, put on by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation in Armstrong Park on March 31.

Karr won in the advanced category and earned $10,000 worth of instruments for the school’s music programs. Langston Hughes Academy was first in the beginner category, winning $5,000 in instruments for the school.

Karr, led by band director Chris Herrero, has been competing in Class Got Brass every year since the contest’s inception in 2012. Until now, the school’s best results were winning third place in the advanced category in 2015 and again in 2018.

A total of 19 schools participated in the 2019 Class Got Brass – the most in the program’s history. This year, eight schools competed in the advanced category, in which the top prizes are $10,000, $7,000 and $5,000 for first, second and third place. There were 11 competing in the beginner category for awards of $5,000, $4,000 and $3,000 for the top three.

For those schools that don’t place in the top three of their categories, each receives a stipend of $1,000. In all, Class Got Brass will provide more than $47,000 this year to support music programs in the competing schools.

The Class Got Brass contest has been put on by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, since 2012. The competition’s purpose is to support arts education programs in the schools, while also incentivizing schools to promote traditional New Orleans culture.

The Class Got Brass contest takes the form of a second-line parade, with school bands performing for a panel of judges who are among the most noted musicians and culture bearers in New Orleans.

All participants are required to form a New Orleans-style brass band, with instrumentation and dress that models the tradition. To honor the iconic New Orleans jazz funeral, each band is required to perform a dirge followed by an up-tempo song from the classic repertoire.

Since 2012, Class Got Brass has awarded $301,250 to schools that have participated in the contest.

“This means a lot,” Herrero said of winning the top prize. “It’s the culmination of the hard work that these kids have put into the brass band over the past several years. We got over the hump, and it’s a great feeling. Some of our kids are seniors and have been participating in the bass band for all four of their years in high school and now they get a chance to go out on top.”

Like many of the middle schools and high schools that participate in the contest, Karr did not have a brass band before Class Got Brass.

The school’s brass band came into existence “because of what the Jazz & Heritage Foundation has started,” Herrero said.

Asked if the school’s brass band will continue, Herrero said, “Most definitely. The kids enjoy it. A lot of the kids I’ve had over the years have gone on to play in brass bands professionally and make it their livelihood.

“We want them to continue this legal hustle, this way of making money through the music.”

Herrero said he will use the $10,000 in Class Got Brass prize money primarily to fix broken instruments.

“I know we have a $2,000 bill for instrument repair” that already has been incurred, Herrero said, “so it’s going to go for that off the top. Then I’ll be able to send in some others that need to get fixed, and I’ll purchase a couple of baritone horns if I can.”

The backdrop for the Class Got Brass event is the Congo Square Rhythms Festival in Armstrong Park, one of four free festivals put on by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation. The 2019 contest took place before a large audience, including many of the performers’ parents and relatives, at the culmination of the two-day festival of music and dance.

The complete results of the 2019 Class Got Brass are:

First Place: Edna Karr High School (Chris Herrero, band director), $10,000.00
Second Place: Landry-Walker High School (Wilbert Rawlins, band director), $7,000.00
Third Place: George Washington Carver High School (Eric French, band director), $5,000.00
L. W. Higgins High School (Justin Rush, band director), $1,000.00
McKinley Senior High School (Frank Williams, band director), $1,000.00
Riverdale High School (Desmond Venable, band director), $1,000.00
Rosenwald Collegiate Academy (Karron Brown, band director), $1,000.00
West Jefferson High School (Trey Varnado, band director), $1,000.00

First Place: Langston Hughes Academy (Samuel Venable,  Jr., band director),  $5,000.00
Second Place: Park Forest Creative Sciences and Arts Middle Magnet School (Doretha Williams, band director), $4,000.00
Third Place: Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts (Carlyn Glenn, band director), $3,000.00
Dolores T. Aaron Academy (Andy Bower, band director), $1,000.00
Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy (Ronald Totora, band director), $1,000.00
Lafayette Academy (Charles Jackson, band director), $1,000.00
Marrero Middle School (Jeremy  Williams, band director), $1,000.00
Mildred Osborne Charter School (Thomas Grany , band director), $1,000.00
Renew Sci Tech Academy (Brandon Kelley, band director), $1,000.00
Stella Worley Junior High School (Edward Johnson, band director), $1,000.00
Young Audiences Charter School (Matt Bruzzi, band director), $1,000.00

2019 Judges:
Benny Jones, Sr., Treme Brass Band
Mark Braud, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Woody Penouilh, Storyville Stompers Jazz Band
Louis Ford, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Gregory Davis, Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes
Leslie Cooper
Barbara Lacen-Keller
Veronique Dorsey, Original Pinettes Brass Band
Christie Jourdain, Original Pinettes Brass Band

For winners and competitors in prior editions of Class Got Brass, please see


Class Got Brass is an educational program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. The Foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other raised funds, for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment. For more information, please see

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