One of my favorite New Orleans words is "lagniappe." Pronounced "lan-yap," it means something extra, a bonus. It can also be defined as an unexpected gift.
For me, this year’s American Music Masters series honoring Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew has been nothing but lagniappe. Having moved to Cleveland from New Orleans about a year and a half ago, I’m beyond excited to celebrate the music and spirit of my former hometown, and to pay homage to one of the greatest partnerships in rock and roll history. The line-up for the tribute concert on November 13th alone is phenomenal, not to mention the week’s worth of events that precede it. This is not to be missed – believe me.
The real gift to me, however, came last week when I was able to connect with a seventh-grade class at the Intercultural Charter School of New Orleans East, with an On the Road distance-learning program on Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, and New Orleans rock and roll. Working with teachers at the school and with KID smART, a local arts integration education initiative, we were able to present a special interactive video-conferencing class just to them, and just for them.
While the children of New Orleans don’t need me to tell them about their music (these sounds are part of who they are), the history and legacy of New Orleans rock and roll is not a story most NOLA kids know. It was exciting to see them make connections between the sounds they hear all around them and the sounds of rock and roll, and to see them fill with pride knowing that their city can lay claim to being one of the birthplaces of the music that effectively changed the world. And it was fun to trace this lineage back to the places they pass by every day, places some of these students might even call home – Tremé, the 9th Ward, Congo Square, Rampart Street, etc. This history is all around them – it’s their history.
This was especially true of one student in particular – Dave Bartholomew’s grandson. I heard he walked a little taller once class was over.
That’s what I call lagniappe.