‘Be Loud’ Radio Show Gives a Voice to Young Writers in New Orleans – Billboard

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When Jaren E. Marshall, Jr. puts on his headphones, people call him DJ Big Time. He’s 11, a sixth-grader at Bricolage Academy in New Orleans, and one of 10 students who recently had the chance to capture a bit of music history at Preservation Hall.

Just before the omicron variant sent COVID-19 cases across the country, Marshall and fellow DJs took part in an intergenerational experiment. They visited the Jazz Monument in the heart of the French Quarter to listen to live music and interview the older musicians. The stories they collected will air on Be Loud Radio, a weekly child-led show designed to give students a voice – and the confidence that comes with it.

Be Loud Studios was created by Alex Owens and Diana Turner, two teachers who were looking for ways to engage reluctant writers. The organization offers children the chance to participate in the weekly radio show as well as a variety of after-school programs and summer camps. Whenever possible, staff introduce children, virtually or in person, to people willing to answer their questions about the city’s history and culture.

The field trip to Preservation Hall came at just the right time. Owens had just completed an intergenerational scholarship program and was looking for opportunities to connect student DJs with older adults. The same time, Pamela Blackmonthe development and programming associate at the Preservation Hall Foundation, had begun to worry about older musicians, many of whom were socially isolated during COVID.

“It was amazing to see their spirits lift,” Blackmon says. “Older musicians love connecting with kids.”

Marshall interviewed Gregg Stafford, a 68-year-old trumpeter who supported his work as a jazz musician by teaching elementary school math for nearly 30 years. Being with the children of the Be Loud organization “brought me right back” into the classroom, Stafford says – and Marshall’s questions brought him back to his roots.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Stafford recalls a pivotal moment early in his sophomore year in high school that charted his path to becoming a musician. “The elective I wanted wasn’t available,” he says, “but the band instructor was just in the office when I was talking to the director and he said, ‘Get some instrumental music.’ , and he lent me a trumpet. I’ve been playing ever since. »

Marshall, who has been DJing Big Time for three years now, says he enjoys “meeting new people and learning about different social issues and things going on in the world.” He especially enjoys talking with older people – “they give you so much knowledge and wisdom,” he says.

Stafford’s stories are what 11-year-old DJ Rose, aka Ella Joseph, remembers most from her conversations at Preservation Hall. “That’s the part that stuck with me the most from the start,” she says. “Learning history through him.”

The importance of connecting with younger generations is not lost on Stafford, who visited Preservation Hall several times a week while in his twenties and befriended many older musicians. with whom he then played. “Every opportunity I have to be with the younger generations, I try to instill in them the importance of getting an education, staying out of trouble and working towards their goals,” he says. “Anything I can give them that they can carry through their life, I think I did what I had to do.”

Owens adds: “In a city [New Orleans] who has many problems, it is our responsibility to teach [kids] that for all the difficult things, there are also all the amazing things. We want them to know that it is their responsibility to help capture and share all of these stories that preserve our culture.

Once students prepare their questions, conduct their interviews and produce them for the radio, their confidence skyrockets, says Owens.

Stafford noticed his young interviewer’s assurance. “Jaren is very smart and very involved in what he does,” Stafford recalled. “I told him, ‘You’re going to go far. ‘”

Turns out Marshall is on the right track: he’s playing a young soccer player in Netflix’s family comedy, Home team, filmed in New Orleans. He credits the student DJ program for giving him the confidence to audition.

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