Louis Prima honored with room at new Jazz Education Center
11th August 2014 · 0 Comments
By Fritz Esker
At a July 31st press conference, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation announced that it would name a room at their new state-of-the-art education and community center in Treme the Louis Prima and Gia Maione Prima Foundation, Inc. Brass Instrument Room.
The George and Joyce Wein Jazz and Heritage Center will open at 1205 Rampart Street in late September or early October. It will be the first permanent home of the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s primary education program. Since the program began in 1990, it has operated as a guest on local university campuses.
Prima’s naming honor was in response to a donation the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation received from the Gia Maione Prima Foundation. The donation will provide long-term financial support for music instruction and career development for student and professional musicians.
Louis Prima, born in New Orleans in 1910, was a renowned jazz musician and songwriter famous for hits like “Just a Gigolo” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” He spent his childhood in Tremé and earned his first big break performing daily shows at the Saenger Theater. He eventually left New Orleans, recording several hit records. He performed for presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and voiced the character of King Louie in Disney’s The Jungle Book. But even though he left New Orleans, his love of the city remained strong.
“Throughout Louis’ life, he always believed in helping young people learn the joy of making music, and in supporting his fellow musicians,” said Anthony Sylvester, managing member of the Gia Maione Prima Foundation. “It’s a love affair between the Gia Maione Prima Foundation and New Orleans.”
Louis Prima, Jr. and his sons, Jacob and Anthony, were present at the event. Prima and Sylvester both discussed how the late Gia Maione Prima wanted to honor her husband’s belief in the importance of arts education in schools.
“The arts are being cut (in schools)…It’s unfortunate; I can’t imagine a world without the arts,” Prima said. “It’s important to us to remember to contribute to education.”
The new building will be soundproofed to keep peace with neighbors and will feature seven classrooms, along with a 200-seat auditorium and digital media capabilities. Anthony J. Ruda, president of the board of directors of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, said the center will allow the foundation to reach well over 100 students at a time and expand from being a once-a-week program to several days a week.
“This is a dream come true,” Ruda said.
This article originally published in the August 11, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.