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New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village Toddler Park Opens, Featuring Walkway Named in Honor of Nonesuch President Bob Hurwitz

Our New Orleans [cover]

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) dedicated the newly finished Musicians’ Village Toddler Park today in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, made possible through the support of Nonesuch Records / Warner Music Group, New York Life, and The Talbott Foundation. The park complements the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music (EMCM), which is the centerpiece of the Village and is dedicated to the education and development of the next generation of New Orleans music enthusiasts and the preservation of New Orleans unique musical heritage.

“The park was envisaged to provide—among other things—a place for the parent and siblings of students at the Center to have a place to play and wait while the student was in class at the Center,” stated Jim Pate, Executive Director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.

Developed specially for New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village, the playground equipment is designed to evoke musical instruments and can even be “played” to make sounds. This is a state-of-the-art playground from design and creativity to protective ground coverings and equipment of the highest safety rating.

“The New York Life Foundation is honored to help support the revitalization of our beloved city " said Mark B. Kline, an agent with New York Life's New Orleans General Office. "As we all know, music and children are the heart and soul of New Orleans and the Musician’s Village, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music and the New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village Park are all important parts of the rebuilding of our community.”

The central walkway, Hurwitz Way, is named in honor of Bob Hurwitz, president of Nonesuch Records, and is designed to approximate a treble clef symbol. The walkway is etched to look like a keyboard for half of its length; the remaining length is etched with the opening bar of “When the Saints Go Marching In." In the fall of 2005, Nonesuch released a benefit album of newly recorded songs featuring artists from the New Orleans music community across a wide variety of styles to document the depth, richness, and profound musicality of that unique city. The resulting record, Our New Orleans, raised 1.1 million dollars, which was donated to New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, to create new housing for the Musicians' Village.

Hurwitz says: “We knew that making the album Our New Orleans and raising money was important, but we had no clear picture of what it really meant until we actually came to the site of Habitat's Musicians’ Village. It was there that we began to recognize how essential it was to help support the incredible community of musicians whose work is at the very heart and soul of this great city. It is an overwhelming honor and profoundly humbling to have my name linked with such a meaningful project.”

Additionally, in keeping with the musical overtones of the Village, YA/YA has contributed an oversized trombone sculpture by Rontherin Ratliff created with guild members from Young Aspirations/Young Artists dedicated to ghe musicians of New Orleans. This project is a Contemporary Arts Center Art Shops Project supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation. YA/YA is an after-school arts and professional enrichment program with a two-decade track record of setting New Orleans youth on positive, productive paths. They teach art and the business of art, but the impact of YA/YA extends far beyond the art world, into the business community, families, neighborhoods, and the health and safety of our city as a whole.

Since the Village’s inception following Hurricane Katrina, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music was slated to be an integral part of the Village. “Our dream was to create a place where local New Orleans musicians could pass on the tradition to a whole new generation, like I had when I was growing up,” stated Harry Connick Jr., co-founder of Musicians’ Village. 

The Center is named for the patriarch of the Marsalis clan, Ellis Marsalis, a modern jazz pioneer and a native New Orleanian. The Center will have as its focus the celebration of the music and musicians of New Orleans. “Music is as much a part of the fabric of life in New Orleans as the cuisine, and with this Center we celebrate this most vital part of our culture,” said Branford Marsalis, the award-winning saxophonist, native New Orleanian, and co-founder of Musicians’ Village.

“After the tragedy of Katrina the members of the Robert and Audrey Talbott Foundation board of directors became citizens of New Orleans and wanted to extend our help to this great city from our town, Carmel, California. Many thanks to our funding partners for their support; and to NOLA Habitat for Humanity for their hard work in producing this creative and wonderful park for the children of the community to enjoy,“ stated Ron Parravano, Executive Director, The Robert and Audrey Talbott Foundation.

New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village, conceived by Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, consists of 72 single-family homes, five Master Musician elder-friendly duplexes, a toddler-friendly pocket park, and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. All the homes built in the Village were constructed by New Orleans Habitat staff and volunteers.  The Village stands on the former site of Kohn Jr. High School, which was torn down in the 1990s. For a look inside Musicians' Village, check out a preview of today's opening in the New Orleans Times-Picayune at nola.com.

For more information on Musicians' Village and the larger efforts of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, go to habitat-nola.org. To pick up a copy of Our New Orleans, with high-quality, 320 kbps MP3s of the album included at checkout, head to the Nonesuch Store now.

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