Students from schools all over the city took to the stage Thursday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for what New Orleanians refer to as “Local’s Day,” when local talent abounds in the tents and the crowds tend to be thinner.
“I love coming to Jazz Fest on this Thursday,” said Kaitlin Joerger, a 33-year-old Mid-City resident. “I love coming to the Gospel tent to see the high school bands. It’s Gospel Thursday.”
By 5 p.m., Joerger had seen three high school performances, she said — McDonogh 35 High School Gospel Choir, Landry Walker Charter High School Gospel Choir and Dwione Thomas & The Helen Cox High School Choir.
“It’s really good energy, and they’re just fun,” Joerger said about the student performers. But high school gospel wasn’t the only bill on the ticket for Local’s Day. College students and elementary kids enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, too, playing jazz, performing circus tricks and singing hip-hop songs.
The older crowd started earlier, when the Loyola University Jazz Band played at the Samsung Galaxy Stage starting at 11:15. The Delgado Community College Jazz Band played at the same time in the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent.
Over at the Kid’s Tent, the Recovery School District Talented in Theater group took to the stage at 11:30.
In the afternoon, the St. Michael Special School Bell and Vocal Choir performed in the Kid’s Tent, followed by a Kid sMART Student Showcase, which featured a mix of performances from schools all around the city.
Kid smART isn’t one school, but rather an arts integration program that brings performers to different schools around the city to teach art along with core curriculum in a classroom setting. During the Kid smART spectacular, Andrew Wilson Charter School performed a piece, written and directed by the students, about a boy named Jack who leaves home and befriends various animals during his adventure.
Also part of the Kid smART Student Showcase was a modern dance performance by the Langston Hughes Academy after school dance troupe and a play about a circus from students of the same school. ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy did a play inspired by the movie “Home Alone,” and ARISE Academy students did some improvisational comedy.
Mildred Osborne Charter School also performed as part of the Kid smART Student Showcase, with a play about the true story behind the Declaration of Independence.
Dequeen Staes, an 11-year-old from ReNEW, said she loved performing.
“My favorite part was when we were dancing, because it mad me feel good,” Staes said after the Home Alone-inspired play, which featured a hip-hop dance interlude.
Although there were some “butterflies” before the performances, other students said they had a good time, too.
“It’s fun,” said Aaliyah Jackson, 9, who performed as a donkey during the play put on by her classmates at Wilson Charter School. Jackson explained that she enjoyed the moral of the story, which focused on teamwork.
International School of Louisiana closed out the day at Jazz Fest with a Circus Arts showcase. A clown narrated the performance as elementary school students did acrobatics and performed with Chinese Yo-Yos, or Flight Diabolos.
Jennifer Taylor, a 40-year-old architect and Uptown resident who had come to see her son’s friend perform, said she was “really” impressed with how well ISL integrated arts and activities into curriculum.
“It’s amazing, and so fun,” Taylor said. “This program is unbelievable.”
Taylor added that she wished more schools had arts integration, especially in a city like New Orleans.
“It’s the most important thing there could be, and most don’t have enough of it,” Taylor added. “I’m an architect myself, so I see how it’s necessary.”