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Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band on New Orleans during COVID-19 crisis

Ben Jaffe at The Current with Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 2015. (Nate Ryan/MPR)
Ben Jaffe at The Current with Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 2015. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

by Sylvia Jennings

March 25, 2020

Ben Jaffe is the creative director for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band based in New Orleans; he also plays tuba and double bass in the band. On Monday, Morning Show host Jill Riley checked in over the phone with Jaffe after Preservation Hall temporarily closed its doors due to the spread of COVID-19, the first time that it had closed down in 15 years.

Jaffe discussed the how the coronavirus has altered his day-to-day life, from him now homeschooling his daughter or using the internet to connect with fans, to simply how the environment of New Orleans and the city's musical nature has changed.

Jill Riley: What are things like in New Orleans right now?

Ben Jaffe: Things are quiet. It's pretty much closed down. The schools have been closed for a week, so we've been homeschooling our daughter for a week. We're much better now than we were last week. God bless teachers. Preservation Hall has been closed. We're going into our second week now. The city that most people have come to know has all moved inside, and New Orleans is a very outside city. Everything happens outside. Music happens outside. People are outside. It's very unfamiliar to see the city quiet.

When is the last time that Preservation Hall has been shut down like this? I mean, Preservation Hall has been going strong since the early '60s. 

Yeah, since 1961. The last time we closed the doors like this, was for Hurricane Katrina. It took us a little under a year to get back open, and many years after that to really get back on our feet. That was the last time that I can remember us being closed for this long period of time.

New Orleans is a city where you feel like you are actually inside a movie with a soundtrack. Not only does it look cinematic, but it has this music that is ever-present. You can't really believe it until you're here. People listen to the radio here quite a bit. People love to keep their windows open or put a radio out on the porch. There's always a soundtrack going. That was palpable to me after Hurricane Katrina. I took immediate notice to how quiet the city was. This time, we came a little bit prepared, though, and we've been doing a live broadcast every day at 6:30 p.m. out in New Orleans.

We've been inviting different people to join us, and we've been broadcasting live and doing our song "Keep Your Head Up," almost like a vibrational chant or prayer. We've had thousands of people logging in with us. That's going on every day. You can actually hear the song being played from different people's houses around New Orleans, so there is music, it's just not the way that we remember it.

Where can people follow along with that live broadcast?

Right now we're doing it from my Instagram account, @preshallband. I usually go live at about 6:25 p.m., and I just visit with our fans and supporters. I'm finding a lot of my friends who are performers are discovering something about the internet that we didn't understand before this moment, and if used properly and in a heartfelt way, it is an incredibly powerful and impactful platform.

Connecting with the music world during the coronavirus crisis

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.