In New Orleans, music is a tie that binds.
One of the most beautiful things about New Orleans’ culture is that music is a bridge that brings generations together. In many families, music is something that divides generations, but I count myself fortunate that I grew up loving the music that my parents listened to. In our house, the music was always on, while my mom cooked dinner or when we were cleaning the house. In turn, my parents have an appreciation for the music that my generation has contributed, and I can’t wait to go full circle and discover the music of my children’s generation.
I believe this multi-generational love of music is because our city celebrates it in so many ways, from second lines, carnival parades and festivals (my favorite of all). It doesn’t matter what the festival is for — oysters, creole tomatoes or gumbo — music is always at the center of the celebration. The same local musicians that were just starting out and becoming established when I was a child are now are the headliners I want to see at local festivals. They are the same musicians that my own two girls love to see.
My parents instilled in me a love of festivals at a very young age, and the “train them young” philosophy is something I have continued with my daughters. My youngest daughter’s first French Quarter Fest was when she was only 13 days old. I strapped her into a baby carrier and she slept peacefully on me all day with the sweet sounds of John Boutte and Trombone Shorty filling the air as the sun went down over the river. My girls, now ages 5 and 7, love to attend all the festivals possible from French Quarter Fest and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to the Bayou Boogaloo. They pack their own bags of festival essentials: a blanket; toys; and snacks, and they are good to hang out for the day.
For some moms, I imagine the idea of taking a small child to a festival is all too much: the crowds; the smells; and the bathroom situation. Others might think instilling the value of festival appreciation is silly. For my family, it’s a staycation in our own city — a day spent together playing in the sun (or rain), enjoying each other and the music that ties us all together. I love watching my girls spread out the blanket, kick off their shoes and dance the day away to the same local bands I’ve been enjoying for years. Festivals are truly magical for all ages — a time to celebrate and share joy.
I was born and raised in this wonderful city, and, despite its issues, I truly feel it has some unique cultural experiences to offer our children that cannot be found elsewhere. I could not imagine raising my girls anywhere else, and I look forward to exploring those experiences and sharing more with them throughout the years.