NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - She plays classic New Orleans jazz and most days can be heard in the French Quarter plying her trade, and while many folks find their way to music by some complex design, how Doreen Ketchens found the clarinet was much simpler.
She was in the 5th grade at Craig Elementary as Ketchens recalled, "I was actually just trying to get out of a history test." (laughs) "And I looked at the sky and said 'God if you get me out of this, I'll do anything', and I kid you not about 2 minutes later the principle came on the loudspeaker and she said anybody interested in joining the band, report to the band room immediately (laughs)."
We have that fateful afternoon to thank for the beautiful tones we hear from Doreen Ketchens, who went on to excel at clarinet, eventually studying at NOCCA and on a music scholarship at the University of Hartford.
How this classically trained artists arrived at playing jazz is also a story that's uniquely Doreen.
"Well it could be some scientific reason or anything like that, but the real I play traditional New Orleans jazz is because I fell in love with a tuba player who played traditional New Orleans jazz (laughs) that's it," says Ketchens.
To this day Doreen and her husband Lawrence Ketchens still manage to share a bandstand. In fact daughter Dorian is a talented drummer who also shares the stage. That jazz would play such an important role in her life isn't, however, all that far fetched. She grew up in Treme.
Ketchens says, "Even before I started playing the music, it was embedded in me. I'd hear it all the time, I'd see it all the time, just a blessing you know"
Certainly we'll see Doreen's Jazz New Orleans band packing them in at all the festivals this year, but she says the streets of the (French) Quarter offer a lot as well.
According to Ketchens, "It's exposure, and it gives us an opportunity to reach youngsters as well, so the music can continue. They don't always listen with a learned ear but it gets in just like when I was a little kid and I was growing up around the Treme, and jazz funerals happened. I wasn't all that interested in them, but they're embedded in me now."
Doreen can be heard most days on the corner of St. Peter and Royal St in the French Quarter and Doreen's Jazz New Orleans is playing the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Friday, April 22nd.