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Landry-Walker High School Wins 2017 Class Got Brass Competition

Landry-Walker High School Wins 2017 Class Got Brass Competition


Landry-Walker High School – a regular contender for the top honors – won first place in the 2017 Class Got Brass competition on Sunday, beating several strong contestants to take the first place prize of $10,000 in the musical competition sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

Class Got Brass is a program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation that supports music education in the schools while also promoting New Orleans’ cultural traditions.

A total of 17 school brass bands competed in the 2017 Class Got Brass, up from 14 last year – 10 in the beginner category and seven in the advanced category. The contest took place in Armstrong Park as part of the 10th annual Congo Square Rhythms Festival, one of four free festivals produced by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

The other top winners in the advanced category were St. Augustine High School, which took second place and a prize of $7,000, and KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle School, which took third place and $5,000.

A group of 12 judges – jazz musicians, artists and others with a deep knowledge of the brass band tradition – scored all of the contestants on elements such as adherence to tradition, originality, improvisation, tightness and overall presentation. Each contestant was required to perform a traditional dirge before launching into two up-tempo songs from the classic brass band repertoire.

Several of the contestants brought props – like faux coffins to simulate a jazz funeral – or dancers, which earned the groups bonus points.

The Jazz & Heritage Foundation initiated Class Got Brass in 2012 as a way to encourage schools – which often have marching band programs but rarely have brass bands – to include New Orleans’ famous “second-line” tradition in their offerings for students. By enticing schools with large prizes – which take the form of gift certificates that may be redeemed for instruments, instrument repair, sheet music or other supplies or services needed by the schools’ music programs – the Jazz & Heritage Foundation has prompted many schools in the region to launch and maintain brass bands, which are emblematic of the city.

The top prizes in the advanced category are $10,000 for first place, $7,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place. The top prizes for the beginner category are $5,000 for first place, $4,000 for second place and $3,000 for third place. Every school that competes gets a gift certificate for $750.

In all, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation supports the competing schools with a total of $42,000 that goes toward the schools’ music programs.

The beginners’ category was won by Park Forest Middle School from Baton Rouge. Led by band director Doretha Williams, Park Forest did not have a brass band before competing in the 2015 Class Got Brass, when it took third place. Park Forest won the $5,000 top prize in the beginner category in 2016, but the school was flooded in the devastating storms that hit much of south Louisiana in August – destroying many of the instruments the school had purchased with its 2016 prize money. Taking the top prize in the 2017 competition will help Park Forest replenish its inventory of instruments for the school’s music programs.

St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School took second place in the beginner category and a prize of $4,000. Lincoln School for the Arts won third place and a prize of $3,000.

Three of this year’s Class Got Brass competitors that received free tutorials in the brass band tradition from musicians associated with Preservation Hall, thanks to a partnership with the Preservation Hall Foundation.

Several of the top-placing bands have been regulars in the Class Got Brass winners’ circle.

This year’s grand prize winner, Landry-Walker High School, took second place in 2016, first place in 2015 and second place in 2014. The school’s band director, Wilbert Rawlins, won first place in 2013 and second place at in 2012 while at his previous school, O. Perry Walker High School (which merged with L.B. Landry High School in 2013 to form Landry-Walker).

St. Augustine High School, which won second place in the advanced category this year, won third place in 2016, second place in 2015 and first place in 2014.

KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle School, which won third place in the advanced category this year, took second place in the beginner category in 2016, third place in the advanced category in 2014, second place in 2013 (before there were separate categories for beginner and advanced) and the top prize of $10,000 in the inaugural Class Got Brass in 2012.

It’s likely that the Jazz & Heritage Foundation will institute new rules in 2018 to prevent repeat winners from dominating the top spots.

The complete results of the 2017 Class Got Brass competition are:

First Place: Landry-Walker High School, $10,000 (band director: Wilbert Rawlins)
Second Place: St. Augustine High School, $7,000 (band director: Eddie Williams)
Third place: KIPP: McDonogh 15 Middle School, $5,000 (band director: Kelvin Harrison)
Edna Karr High School (band director: Chris Herrero)
KIPP Renaissance High School (band director: Lester Wilson)
McKinley Senior High School, Baton Rouge (band director: Frank Williams)
George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy (band director: Jeffery Herbert)

First Place: Park Forest Middle School, Baton Rouge, LA, $5,000 (band director: Doretha Williams)
Second Place: St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School, $4,000 (band director: Lester Singleton)
Third Place: Lincoln School for the Arts, $3,000 (band director: Carlyn Glenn)
Arthur Ashe Charter School (band director: Edwin Thomas)
Democracy Prep School, Baton Rouge, LA (band director: Karron Brown)
Dolores T. Aaron Academy (band director: Andy Bower)
KIPP Central City Academy (band director: Joshua Speight)
Moton Charter School (band director: Edwin Harrison)
N.P. Trist Middle School, Meraux, LA (band director: Carl Landry)
Ridgewood Preparatory School,  Metairie, LA (band director: Shari Meyer)

2017 Class Got Brass Judges:
Ben Jaffe, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Brandan Odums, artist
Branden Lewis, Preservation Hall
Brice Miller, Mahogany Brass Band
Charlie Gabriel, Preservation Hall
Christie Jourdain, Pinettes Brass Band
Derrick Freeman, Soul Brass Band
Gerard Howard,
Kerry Brown, musician and festival producer
Stafford Agee, Rebirth Brass Band
Veronique Dorsey, Pinettes Brass Band
Walter Harris, Preservation Hall

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