The online video encyclopedia about
New Orleans, its culture, and its people

Music & the building trades
in New Orleans

Why are the old buildings
in New Orleans so beautiful?

Caught this at the Sound Cafe and glad I did.

The video doesn't begin to do it justice.

Why are the old buildings in New Orleans so beautiful?

Craftsmanship of a very high order.

In fact, New Orleans plasterers, woodworkers and other members of the building trade were in much demand by other US cities like Chicago as New Orleans jazzmen were (and still are.)

Not only that, but it was also common for New Orleans jazz musicians to have a day job in the building traders and many, in addition to being accomplished musicians were accomplished craftsmen too, very often with craft lineages going back generations.

Columbia College of Chicago put this event on at the Sound Cafe as part of a conference it brought to Chicago last weekend called "Black Music Diaspora."

Musicians talked about their "other" crafts and then played. The music was smoking.

Program of Events

Friday, April 18
8:00 p.m.
Sound Cafe, 2700 Chartres Street
Join us for a public event featuring live interviews by Nick Spitzer with several New Orleans tradesmen-musicians, including Don Vappie, Eddie Bo, Lionel Ferbos, Alonzo Bowen, and Earl Barth. Admission is included in the conference registration fee.

Nick Spitzer, a folklorist at the University of New Orleans, is host and producer of American Public Media's radio program American Routes.

Don Vappie, a banjo player and guitarist, has single-handedly revived the role of the banjo in New Orleans traditional jazz and is featured in the noted PBS film American Creole.

Eddie Bo (Edwin Bocage) is an R&B and soul piano player who is also a finish carpenter from a multiple generation family of Algiers Point Creole craftsmen.

Lionel Ferbos is a trumpeter and singer who, at 96, is the oldest active musician in the City of New Orleans. Until age 75, he was a tinsmith.

Alonzo Bowen is a native of the Creole 7th ward. As a clarinet and sax player, he plays both traditional jazz and R&B, something he continues to do while repairing his flood-damaged home.

Earl Barth, a legendary Creole plasterer, was awarded the NEA National Heritage fellowship in 2005. Mr. Barth, a sixth-generation New Orleans building artisan, uses musical analogies of performance and improvisation in his work and employs musicians as apprentices and journeymen.

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