Students enjoy 'cultural feast' in New Orleans


From left, Tess Favini, Rhea Warner, Vito Guerini, Jenny Beers, Tiniqua Patrick, Hannah Sterrs, Dr. Michael Dilthey and Jonathan Secor.

Shortly before the close of the spring semester, eight students traveled with Jonathan Secor, director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, and music professor Dr. Michael Dilthey to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

There, they attended a plethora of concerts, including those by Phish, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant and Vampire Weekend. In addition, they visited a New Orleans jazz club for a performance by Allen Toussaint, "one of great living piano players," according to Secor. "They were all ecstatic. My music students in particular said, 'That was the greatest music I've ever heard.'"

The trip marked the third time a group of MCLA students has traveled to the Festival. The opportunity was made possible by the Alice Shaver Foundation, which provides funding to create experiences for MCLA students they wouldn't otherwise have.

"They spent five days totally immersed in the wonderful world and melting pot that is New Orleans," Secor said. "The trip is such a wonderful one in that there's so many cultural aspects to it that these students can experience."

The trip started off with a visit to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which features the arts and culture of the American South. The group then headed to the Festival, which showcased a wide genre of music, including Cajun, Zydeco, Hip Hop, Rap, Rock, Soul, Dixieland and Jazz.

Although recent graduate Hannah Sterrs '14 of Kingston, N.Y., previously attended and worked at smaller festivals as part of her arts management program, this was the first time she'd been to a festival of this caliber. "This was the biggest by far," she said.

"The festival showed me how passionate, engaging, and exciting the arts world is. Considering that is the field I will work in, the trip really helped me reaffirm and finalize my love for the arts, in every sense of the word," Sterrs said.

Also an arts management major and recent graduate, Tess Favini '14 of Fitchburg, Mass., is primarily interested in performing arts management and special event programming.

"I was blown away by the attention to detail the coordinators of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival had," she said.

"New Orleans has always been on my list of places to visit," Favini added. "No other city has such a rich blend of many cultures as New Orleans, so I wanted to experience that firsthand. The city, as a whole, places a lot of importance on arts and culture - mainly music and fine art - while preserving traditions and history, all at the same time."

 "The food in New Orleans is just amazing," Secor said. "There are all these different fusions and all these different cultures that come together to create new foods."

A favorite part of the trip for Favini was the opportunity to enjoy a traditional crawfish boil.

"There was a live band and a ridiculous amount of crawfish waiting for us after the Festival. We were totally welcomed into the culture of New Orleans while we tried something new," she said. "Nothing beats good food, company and music!"