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‘Class Got Brass,’ a brass band competition for Louisiana schools

Written by  New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation
(Photo by: Offbeat Magazine) (Photo by: Offbeat Magazine)
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation's new program, Class Got Brass, is back!
It’s a contest for Louisiana middle and high schools to create traditional New Orleans-style brass bands. At stake is $30,000 worth instruments for the winning schools’ band programs.
Many, if not most of Louisiana’s schools, struggle to afford enough instruments to equip all of the students who want to learn how to play music. Still, nearly all Louisiana high schools – and many middle schools – have active marching band programs. But, historically, hardly any of them have had New Orleans-style brass bands – even in this, the only region in the world where teenagers love their joyous local culture of second-line parades.
So the Foundation established a contest to encourage Louisiana middle and high schools to create brass bands. They would compete in a second-line parade according to guidelines that encourage the essential elements of a centuries-old tradition. The winners would earn $30,000 worth of instruments for their schools’ band programs.

Class Got Brass made its debut in March 2012 and was a roaring success. More than a dozen Louisiana middle and high schools stepped up to the challenge. KIPP McDonogh 15 took the top prize of $10,000. O. Perry Walker High School won second place and $6,000 and McDonogh 35 High School took third place winning $4,000. An additional 14 schools each got consolation prizes of $750 worth of instruments, instrument repair and other essential supplies.

Now the Jazz & Heritage Foundation is launching the second of what will be an annual competition – and a new tradition. As in the first version, Class Got Brass is open to middle schools and high schools – public and private – anywhere in Louisiana. Just as before, bands will be limited to 12 members – only one bass drum, one snare drum and one tuba. All other instruments must be part of the recognized brass band tradition. And, as in the first Class Got Brass, schools are encouraged to augment their bands with “steppers,” or dancers.
The finals will take the form of a second-line parade, with an all-star group of heroes from the New Orleans brass band scene serving as judges.Once again, the prizes will be $10,000 for first place, $6,000 for second and $4,000 for third. The prizes will be in the form of gift certificates from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation that may be redeemed for instruments, instrument repair or other supplies that benefit the winning schools’ band programs.
The second annual Class Got Brass will have a few new features. Clinics will be organized for the participating schools, with top musicians educating the competitors in the finer points of the brass band tradition. Also new this year will be an elimination round. Participating schools will gather on Sunday, March 3, for a preliminary competition to narrow the field. If necessary, an additional “battle of the bands” will be scheduled to select the top 10. And in a new addition to the guidelines, all competing bands must include a new required element: a dirge. This will be in addition to a traditional up-tempo song from the classic brass band cannon, as well as a contemporary song.
The finals will take place in a second-line parade on Sunday, March 24, in conjunction with the Foundation’s Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival. Applications are now available to enter Class Got Brass 2013. The deadline to apply is February 22. 
Last modified on Monday, 14 January 2013
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