On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, LA causing severe devastation throughout this beloved city.
In response to this destruction, Musicians' Village was designed to construct a community and preserve a culture. Conceived by New Orleans natives, Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, and constructed by New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) as a cornerstone of its post-Katrina rebuilding effort, Musicians' Village provides a home for both the artists who have defined the city's culture and the sounds that have helped to shape the musical vernacular of the world.
The core idea behind Musicians' Village is the establishment of a community for the city's several generations of musicians and other families, many of whom had lived in inadequate housing prior to the catastrophe and remained displaced in its aftermath. Musicians' Village is located in the Upper Ninth Ward on an eight-acre parcel of land and is comprised of 72 single-family homes, 5 elder-friendly duplexes for the senior members of the community and a toddler park, all built by approximately 70,000 volunteers, donors, sponsors and low-income families.
Construction of Musicians' Village began in March 2006 with the help of thousands of volunteers digging foundations and laying block. By June 1, 2006 the first three homes were complete and partner families received the keys to their new homes.
Work on five New Orleans-style duplexes began in November 2006, to be used as rental units for elder Master Musicians in Residence. These elder musicians provide a rich resource for the younger residents of the Village and the surrounding communities.
One of the most important features of Musicians' Village is the inclusion of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music (the "Center"), named in honor of the New Orleans native and legendary jazz pianist, educator and patriarch of the Marsalis clan. The 17,000 square-foot Center includes a 170-seat performance space with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, recording facilities, computer center and listening library, dance studio, classrooms and teaching facilities for individual and group instruction, and serves as a gathering place for the community.
On September 13, 2007, the ground-breaking ceremony for the Center was marked by a musical celebration featuring Ellis, Harry and Branford in performance with several musician residents of the Village. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music opened its doors in 2011.
Musicians' Village has proven to be the leading example of how a meaningful vision and focused efforts can provide immediate relief as well as long-term hope for the survival of a great city and many of its most essential citizens.