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4 students receive free instruments through new program

January 13, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Like most New Orleanians, Darnell Lewis has enjoyed brass melodies since he was little. His mother calls him “a real band head” who is eager to become a band director someday.

But instruments are expensive tools, and Lewis’ family can’t afford to buy him a tuba. Fortunately, a new program in the city successfully awarded Lewis his very own tuba Jan. 4.

Lewis is one of four students selected for the Preservation Hall Foundation’s new Sousafund program. The Sousafund was announced in March 2018 after Ben Jaffe, son of Preservation Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, had his sousaphone stolen. Jaffe created the Sousafund after he received an outpouring of financial support to replace his sousaphone, which was recovered last March.

The program is intended to give at-risk students in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes access to basses and tubas to use in school music programs. Jaffe said in released statement on Jan. 3 that access to an instrument can make “the difference between pursuing a career in music” in a young student’s life.

“We have a responsibility to not only mentor and encourage, but to actually put a physical instrument in the hands of the next generation,” Jaffe stated.

Preservation Hall Foundation retains instrument ownership while they’re being used. However, the instrument ownership is passed on to the student if they decide to pursue a career in music, including applying to music schools nationwide.

The students selected include Xavier University of Louisiana freshman Kerry Lewis, Jr., who received an upright bass. Three tubas were also awarded to St. Katherine Drexel Prep junior Perryion Landry, The Net Charter High School: Central City senior Darryl Mutin, and Lewis, who’s a junior at Edna Karr High School.

Sixteen-year-old Perryion joined Lewis and Mutin at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter to receive her horn. She called the program an “awesome” opportunity to interact with musicians. Jaffe told her to stay in touch in order to receive music lessons. Perryion happily hugged Lewis seconds before Jaffe gifted tubas to her, Lewis, and Mutin.

The exchange was also emotional for Mutin, who said he enjoys music so much that he continued to march and perform for George Washington Carver High School after he transferred to The Net. Mutin’s former teacher gifted him with a tuba, but in dismay Mutin had to sell it, he said.

Mutin admitted he “started crying and everything” when he learned Preservation Hall selected him for the program. The 20-year-old plans to earn money for college through music, but he said he’ll accept a college band scholarship if the school has a nice band.

Mutin and Lewis said band experience prepares them for life. Lewis’ band director at Karr, for instance, teaches them to stay away from bad situations and to help others with pride. Lewis also takes advantage of Karr’s band program by using the school’s instruments for brass band performances outside of school.

The three students launched into a performance within seconds of obtaining their tubas. Lewis pulled a tuba mouthpiece out of his pocket and placed it on the instrument to perform for a few minutes before he paused midway to exchange smiles with his mother.

“That mouthpiece he have? He don’t leave home without it,” Shauunda Mitchell said.

Lewis plans to return to New Orleans after college to become a middle or high school band director “to try to continue the tradition” of passing knowledge to the next generation of musicians, he said. Mitchell expressed confidence in her son’s dream and said Lewis has played instruments since the third grade at Martin Berhman Elementary.

She recalled how Lewis “was the littlest one on the tuba” in elementary school, but he carried the instrument “through the whole parade season.” Mitchell said he used to play music as late as 11 p.m. at home, so she and Lewis both expressed excitement over his new tuba.

“I was hoping I was going to get picked for this,” said Lewis, 17. “To actually get picked for this feels good.”

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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