After 100 years, a Little-known Prohibition of Jazz in the New Orleans Public Schools is Officially Repealed
A long-forgotten but culturally significant action by the New Orleans Public School Board in 1922 outlawed jazz music and jazz dance from all school campuses. The current School Board overseeing public education in the city famous as the Birthplace of Jazz has now repealed that prohibition.
Exactly 100 years from the day of its original abolition of jazz, the Orleans Parish School Board passed Resolution 04-22 on March 24, 2022, rescinding the prior action and encouraging jazz in the local schools.
“The fact that jazz, the quintessential American art form, had been outlawed in the public schools of its birthplace is both ironic and amusing,” said Dr. Ken Ducote, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools (GNOCCS). “The 1922 prohibition was not on the School Board’s agenda nor based on any principle of pedagogy, but rather it resulted from one Board member’s ethnocentric personal preferences.”
Dr. Al Kennedy, a retired School District Communications Coordinator and author of several books on local cultural history, discovered the archaic ban in the 1990s when he was documenting his book Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans.
He explained that “Public school students benefited not only from the study of music and theory, but from direct exposure to musicians. The School District helped support the local music industry by providing full-time employment for musicians as teachers and band leaders.”
The current School Board, led by President Olin Parker, noted this week that jazz originated in New Orleans and is a truly American art form to be celebrated by history and modern-day self-expression.
President Parker said, “Jazz music in education has been shown to enhance student learning experiences by inspiring creativity, developing focus and creating teamwork.”
Modern-day Grammy-award-winning former public school students and jazz musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty and Harry Connick Jr. and the late Pete Fountain, Dr. John and Louis Prima –just to name a few--would certainly agree. And so would legendary jazz pioneers like local public school attendees Louis Armstrong and Buddy Bolden.
“New Orleans is the home of Jazz and it was about time to take down this 100-year-old, antiquated action taken by the school board in the 1920s,” said New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School “Sci High” Head Dr. Monique Cola. “Jazz is a way of life in New Orleans and our jazz band represents the joy and creativity that this music brings. Jazz brings our whole community together, and we are happy to celebrate the demise of this ruling.”
For more information about the Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools (GNOCCS), go to: www.gnocollaborative.com
Dr. Ken Ducote, Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools (GNOCCS) firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 650-2338
Heather Harper email@example.com or (504) 289-0499
Cheron Brylski firstname.lastname@example.org, or (504) 460-1468