New Orleans, LA – That's Connick, getting the feel of the Steinway piano on stage at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, while finishing touches are completed in the facility. It's the centerpiece of the Musicians Village concept brought to life by Habitat for Humanity. Marsalis says the idea began when he and Connick were driving to Houston after Hurricane Katrina to perform for evacuees.
"We are in the middle of two wars and when Katrina hit we were really, really stressed. We're even more stressed now with the economic downturn, and you factor in all those things and you look at what we've done here. This is amazing. The city is much further along than I thought it would be personally. And I think that it's onward and upward. I agree with everything Branford said. It's exactly true. It's a great testament to what people can do. Branford and I spearheaded it, in that we kind of made public to everyone what we were trying to do. But, man, we could never, ever have done this by ourselves."
There are now 72 single-family homes, and 10 elder-friendly duplex units designed for the city's displaced musicians. Both said they'd almost forgotten that next week is the sixth anniversary of Katrina.
"It feels like it was yesterday that we were walking and it was just an empty lot. Five acres or so of nothing. Now, it's like, people are raising their families here. Citizens of the world gave us their time, gave us their money, gave us their toil. It was an amazing experience."
The center has performing space, as well as recording studios and rooms for other cultural programs, such as dance and Mardi Gras Indian activities.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.