In its marathon 60 years in existence, Preservation Hall has been dedicated to doing exactly what their name entails: Preserving the history and spirit of traditional New Orleans jazz music, and taking care of the artists who helped make the city's music culture the soulful hotbed that it has long been.
It began in the 50’s with a small art gallery at the heart of the French Quarter. The proprietor – a jazz enthusiast – began inviting musicians to perform in the small space. It quickly became a hub for future local music legends to play unrehearsed, raw sets for intimate crowds; the place to go for the people in the know. Luckily, some of those in the know directed visiting honeymooners Allan and Sarah Jaffe to the spot in 1960. As jazz fans, they were attracted to its spirit and the artists who played there. It wasn't long before they made a permanent move to New Orleans.
Not long after the Jaffes’ move, the gallery owner opened up the building next door to the gallery to allow for more space for music. He gave the keys to Allan Jaffe to manage, and Preservation Hall as we know it was born.
"When my parents came here and established Preservation Hall, the idea was always to be in service of the aging African American, Black and Creole musicians of this city," says the founders' son and current Director, Ben Jaffe. "We picked up the baton and took it to where we now have an education program; a foundation that supports our musicians, and our aging musicians and their families and their legacy. It celebrates them and it creates educational materials that make sure that their message and their wisdom survive for others to learn from."
Having been raised in the heart of New Orleans amongst some of its greatest jazz musicians, both throughout the city and within the walls of Preservation Hall, Ben was a natural fit to take over for his father as director of the establishment. He has since not only taken the lead of the establishment's famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band, but has also carried out the mission of giving back to the music community and ensuring that the legacy is intact...that the stories and music are continuing to be passed down through generations.
According to Ben, the unspoken moments at the Hall are the ones that truly say it all:
"Sometimes I wish people could experience what bands experience when playing here...no wrong notes, nothing to hide behind. It's just magic. It's like being in church."
Outside of the magical and seemingly untouchable Hall experience, Jaffe has launched numerous non-profit efforts that "ensure our culture bearers are honored, and that their rich
musical cultural traditions and enduring contributions are celebrated and rewarded for many years to come."
For more information on the acts of kindness Preservation Hall is putting in motion, including the recent Legacy Emergency Relief Fund, visit: www.preservationhall.com.