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Louis Prima Partners With Jazz & Heritage Foundation to Support Music Eductation

Louis Prima Partners With Jazz & Heritage Foundation to Support Music Eductation


Louis Prima, one of New Orleans’ most renowned and beloved jazz musicians, will have a lasting impact on music education in New Orleans thanks to a new partnership with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

Prima – the trumpeter, singer, bandleader and songwriter famous for such songs as “Just A Gigolo,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and many others, who died in 1978 - will provide long-term financial support to the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s music education programs through a donation from the Gia Maione Prima Foundation. The donation will support the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s programs in music instruction and career development for student and professional musicians.

On July 31, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation will announce that it will recognize the Foundation’s donation by naming a room, the Louis Prima and Gia Maione Prima Foundation, Inc. Brass Instrument Room, at the new education and community center the foundation is building in the Tremé neighborhood.

“Throughout Louis’ life, he always believed in helping young people learn the joy of making music, and in supporting his fellow musicians,” said Anthony Sylvester, Managing Member of the Gia Maione Prima Foundation. “We are thrilled to partner with one of the country’s most important cultural institutions to provide jazz lessons to the youth of Louis’ home town, and to support those professionals who take the sound of New Orleans around the world.”

“Louis Prima was and remains an icon of New Orleans – and American - music,” said Anthony J. Ruda, president of the board of directors of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc. “It is a wonderful honor to extend our relationship with him and his family in the service of our community.”

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation – the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell – is now putting the finishing touches on the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center – the state-of-the-art education and community center it is creating in a historic building on Rampart Street. When finished, the building will have seven classrooms, including dedicated rooms for piano and drum lessons, along with a 200-seat auditorium and digital media capabilities. The building is named for George Wein and his late wife Joyce, who came to New Orleans to establish Jazz Fest in 1970 after gaining renown for launching the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954.

The Jazz & Heritage Foundation will christen the Louis Prima and Gia Maione Prima Brass Instrument Room at the facility during its grand opening in December.

The building will be the first permanent home of the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s principal education program. The school was established in 1990 by the saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan. It has operated as a guest on the campus of local universities as a one-day-a-week program. When the Jazz & Heritage Center is complete, the school will expand to multiple days per week.

The Jazz & Heritage Foundation also will use the facility to establish new programs to provide instruction to music students and professional development to those who have made music their careers.

All of these activities will be supported in part by the donation from the Gia Maione Prima Foundation. This is not the Foundation’s first effort to support music education in New Orleans. In 2011, it announced that it would provide one college scholarship annually to graduates of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), in a partnership with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

A New Orleans native, Louis Prima was born in 1910, the second of four children in a family of Sicilian immigrants who lived in the 1800 block of St. Peter Street, in the Tremé.  It was a musical family, and Louis received violin lessons as a child. He became interested in jazz after hearing artists such as Louis Armstrong at some of the Italian-owned music clubs in the city. He dropped out of Warren Easton High School in 1928 to pursue a career as a jazz musician. His first big break came in 1932, when he was hired to play in daily afternoon and evening shows at the Saenger Theater.

Bold, talented and ambitious, Prima sought success with his New Orleans Gang in New York, California and Chicago – and then back in New York, where, by the late 1930s, his career began to take off. Indeed, 52nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway was renamed “Swing Street” partly due to Prima becoming a smash hit at a club on the block called the Famous Door.

He ultimately became one of the country’s top concert attractions, breaking attendance records at major theaters from coast to coast, and recording hit records for a variety of companies. He performed for presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. His fame reached even greater heights after he voiced the King Louie character in the classic Walt Disney Film “The Jungle Book.”

Over the years, he embraced jazz, swing and big band styles, and even rock & roll. He was a larger than life character, credited with coining such expressions as "swing" and other "hep" sayings like "solid jack," "crazy man," and many more. Through it all, Prima was revered for the trail-blazing sound and persona enshrined in his landmark 1956 album, “The Wildest!”

Prima’s popularity continues to this day. His music often is heard in motion pictures and in TV commercials for major brands.

In 2010, Prima was the subject of a Jazz Fest poster created from a portrait painted by the legendary singer Tony Bennett, and the Honoree of the U.S. Postal Service’s Commemorative Jazz Fest Envelope.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation was established in 1970 as the nonprofit owner of Jazz Fest. The foundation uses the proceeds from that world-famous festival for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment.

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