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Reaching Out in New Orleans

Participants in the project were Riley O'Flynn, Angela Falk, Daniel Davila, Kellie Drobnick, Zack Hann, Casey Hess, Sean Howe, Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter, Jasminn Johnson, Allison Mase, Jeffery Miller, Victoria Pollack, Natsuko Takashima, Tiffany Townsend, Malik Williams, Jacob Wellman, Thomas Woodman, and Sebastian Zinca. Sabrina Tanbara and Rebecca Reuter were the advisers.

 (Photo by Sabrina Tanbara) More Photos »
Juilliard students on New Orleans service trip

Participants in the project were Riley O'Flynn, Angela Falk, Daniel Davila, Kellie Drobnick, Zack Hann, Casey Hess, Sean Howe, Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter, Jasminn Johnson, Allison Mase, Jeffery Miller, Victoria Pollack, Natsuko Takashima, Tiffany Townsend, Malik Williams, Jacob Wellman, Thomas Woodman, and Sebastian Zinca. Sabrina Tanbara and Rebecca Reuter were the advisers.

Sabrina Tanbara
Juilliard student parking lot dance party

On our first day in New Orleans, we stopped by Guitar Center to rent an electric bass and a keyboard for the week ahead. It took much longer than expected, so what did we do? Had a dance party in the parking lot, naturally.

Riley O'Flynn
Juilliard students in the French Quarter

We had a free morning on Sunday, so we spent our time exploring the French Quarter.

Riley O'Flynn
Violinists perform at Trinity Church

On Sunday afternoon, we performed at the magnificent Trinity Church, a Juilliard tradition.

Riley O'Flynn
Students performing in Trinity Church

This was our seventh year performing in Trinity Church.  

Riley O'Flynn
Jeffery Miller

Jeffery Miller, a first-year jazz trombonist, is originally from New Orleans. Last year, when he was a senior at NOCCA (the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), he participated in Juilliard Day and promised himself that if he was accepted to Juilliard, he would be a part of this project. It was beautiful to see him perform in front of his former classmates.

Riley O'Flynn
Juilliard students working for Habitat For Humanity

From Tuesday to Thursday, we worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home in the Eighth Ward. We blasted classical music on the site and our breaks turned into dance-offs—very Juilliard.

Riley O'Flynn
Zachary Hann and Natsuko Takashima

We taught and performed at elementary and middle schools. At Lusher Charter School, we put on our own small production of Peter Pan for the kids. 

Riley O'Flynn
Students rehearsing in living room

Since we didn’t have any studio space in New Orleans, we used the living room of the Hands on New Orleans Volunteer Bunkhouse, where we were staying, instead.

Riley O'Flynn
students pushing a car

On Thursday, we were heading home after a successful day of teaching when we noticed a man struggling to push his car into a driveway. We jumped out of our van, moved his car, and got back on the road. Dressed all in purple shirts, we looked like a SWAT team out to save the day.

students preparing dinner

We divided up into three dinner teams to make food for the entire house each night. We went to Walmart with $150 per team and 45 minutes to find everything we needed for four of our evening meals. It felt just like an episode of Chopped or Iron Chef.

Riley O'Flynn

For the ninth year, Juilliard students headed to New Orleans over spring break to perform, teach, and do outreach work. This year, 18 actors, dancers and musicians plus two advisers worked on a Habitat for Humanity house, spent a day with the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and gave workshops and a benefit performance for a community youth program. Riley O'Flynn and Angela Falk wrote about the experience.

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The other participants were Daniel Davila, Kellie Drobnick, Zack Hann, Casey Hess, Sean Howe, Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter, Jasminn Johnson, Allison Mase, Jeffery Miller, Victoria Pollack, Natsuko Takashima, Tiffany Townsend, Malik Williams, Jacob Wellman, Thomas Woodman, and Sebastian Zinca. Sabrina Tanbara and Rebecca Reuter were the advisers.

Something magical happens in New Orleans. Living, teaching, and performing with 18 talented artists for a week has created this special “thing” that none of us can quite put a finger on, but that we will do our best not to lose. In the day-to-day craziness of school, it’s so easy to lose sight of the big picture; it’s easy to forget the immense privilege we have to be able to express ourselves through art and to connect with people in such a personal way. We forget how lucky we are to pursue our passions. After this week in New Orleans, however, the importance and power of art is clearer than ever. Teaching and performing for students throughout the city was undoubtedly just as educational, if not more so, for all of us on the trip as it was for our pupils. Seeing the happiness they felt—the laughter, the curiosity—showed us that the connection art creates between people is so much more important than any technical perfection. Singing our rousing rendition of “Dancing in the Street” as we welcomed a family into their brand-new home will forever hold a place in our hearts, and remind us of the truly transformative power that art can have.

 

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