NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA–Preservation Hall has survived much over the years. It is a rock of fortitude in the French Quarter that has seen the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, several hurricanes and recently viral pandemics. However, Preservation Hall has always lived up to it’s name of preserving the integrity of NOLA music.
Bass player and Preservation Hall Creative Director, Ben Jaffe says, “those souls that have played here are very much alive. They live in this room and in this space. They live in these paintings. What are we really without music in New Orleans? Food feeds our body and music feeds our soul.”
In the beginning, Preservation Hall was an art gallery on the fringes of society where integrated jam sessions took place. In 1961, a couple with the last name Jaffe came in, enamored with New Orleans and bought the space.
Ben Jaffe says, “When my parents came to New Orleans in 1961, their commitment to the musicians that played here, was to remain a part of this community until the passage of the civil rights act of 1964.
Under the Jaffes, Preservation would remain a performance refuge where both the music and the predominantly African American musicians were respected at a turbulent time in New Orleans where the fight for racial equality raged onward.
Over the years, Preservation Hall would outlast Hurricanes Betsy and Camille. Then in 2005, the storm that changed everything blew in; Hurricane Katrina. Ben Jaffe saw how the culture was in need of a voice and spearheaded the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund.
“I’m proud of fundraising we did during Katrina and the process of opening New Orleans, Preservation Hall and the logistics of helping musicians move back to New Orleans. Right now COVID is our struggle, but there will be more in the future. There will always be mountains to climb,” attests Ben Jaffe.
Preservation Hall is helping musicians through COVID-19. To find out how, click here.