The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans is the centerpiece of the 8-acre 77-unit Musician’s Village, a project conceived in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by famed jazz musicians Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr., along with Jim Pate, the executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, and Ann Marie Wilkins, founder and CEO of Wilkins Management, to restore New Orleans’ musical heritage by welcoming displaced artists back to the Crescent City. A project of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAH), the Village is complete save for the Center for Music, which will provide a destination for music education and appreciation, as well as a focal point for community life when it opens on the sixth anniversary of the hurricane this August.
”The Center will be a gathering place for the people in the community to hear music, perform music, be educated and educate others. It will serve as the Musicians’ Village home base. Times change, and today we need a place specifically dedicated to passing the tradition on,” noted Harry Connick Jr., at the Center’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2007.
A lifetime jazz enthusiast, Signer Harris Architects’ Principal Bill Harris leaped at the opportunity presented by the Musicians Village Foundation to serve as its design liaison on the Center for Music to NOAH and the Center’s architect, Mathes Brierre of New Orleans. Signer Harris Architects hase provided services on a pro-bono basis in support of the foundation’s mission. As design liaison, Harris contributed both poetic and practical solutions to enhance the Center’s design and long-term functionality, making subtle but significant adjustments to the building plan and circulation to improve operations, modifying the stage configuration to enhance acoustics, and fine-tuning the proportions and spatial relationships of public spaces.
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