Alfre Woodard & Trombone Shorty inspire students through the Arts

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) -- Students at Homer A. Plessy Community School in the Seventh Ward got a special treat on Tuesday.   They met Oscar-nominated actress Alfre Woodard and local musician Trombone Shorty.  Reporter Deepak Saini shows why their visit signifies an important change in the school's curriculum.

"They were banging on plastic buckets, they were keeping time with sticks, they were stepping and talking out the whole book of Green Eggs and Ham. There was not a single child that was off rhythm. You wouldn't find that anywhere else but in New Orleans," says Alfre Woodard.

To say actress Alfre Woodard is impressed, is an understatement.

"I'll be an old lady, and I'm going to turn on the television, and I want to see at least half of y'all," says Woodard as she addresses the students.

Homer A. Plessy Community School has a reason to celebrate.  It has been chosen as one of 33 schools in the nation as a "turnaround school."  Alfre Woodard and Trombone Shorty are "turnaround artists."  They serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.  They partnered with the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts to adopt and transform several schools in Louisiana that are in economically challenged areas.

"So all the eyes of the Nation are on you guys to see how well you like art in your classes," says Jaques Rodrige, Executive Director of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.

Trombone Shorty hopes to lead that charge by inspiring kids.

"One guy was like, 'Hey, man. I'm ready to do a gig. Give me your phone number.' And he's probably really only 8 years old," says Trombone Shorty.

It's clear he's already making a difference.

"I was probably nobody to the world. Now that I work with Trombone Shorty, everybody be like, 'Hey, didn't you work with Trombone Shorty in the White House?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, that's me,'" says student Jared Gray.

"Art for any child, for any student, any American, is building citizenship, it's building community, it's building confidence, and that's what we want for all the kids in Louisiana," says Woodard.

Two other Louisiana schools selected for the Turnaround Arts program are St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy in Greensburg and Homer Elementary School in Homer.


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