Friday Night Bands: The John F. Kennedy high school band, a New Orleans tradition returns

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NEW ORLEANS– The city was full of all-star marching bands during the 1980’s. One of the toughest around was John F. Kennedy High school. JFK continued their reign as a top dog high school marching band through the decades, as part of the tradition implemented by Director of Bands, “Doc” Walter Harris.

To the delight of their fans, Kennedy’s music seemed like it would go on forever.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina rolled in and the school never reopened. Thirteen years later, John F. Kennedy is back along with the Director of Bands that led Kennedy before the storm, Keith Thomas. The school was famous for a large band in the past, with over 150 students in the program. The rebuild of JFK starts in 2018 with 60 students.

“I don’t think I can even spell out how much this means to me to be here,” said Thomas. “The pride that we have at Kennedy is unmatched.” “It was almost a state of shock that they were bringing the school back.”

Ariel Toregano is a senior trumpet player in the band. She is also “Miss JFK.” She says, “by Kennedy being back, we get a lot of attention.” “If you walk around with a Kennedy shirt you get greeted by the public.”

This year its all about tradition fused with a brand new sound. Thomas says, “We tried to get back to some of the signature tunes that Kennedy played and some up to date tunes as well.” “It makes me proud that I can be at my alma matter again and to represent it in grand fashion.”

Jernell Green, graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1988 and marched in the band under “Doc” Harris. She says that even though people were asking where JFK was for 13 years, she knew the answer. JFK was in her heart.

“just being an alumni, you can’t hide that Cougar Pride,” said Green.

The Bible’s book of Job has a theme that JFK can identify with restoration. Faith is what Director of Bands Keith Thomas says brought him back to JFK and what kept the alumni fighting for the school’s return.

“I’m here for a purpose,” said Thomas. “I believe that this band is going show the city the state the world that Kennedy is back and stronger than ever.” Now we have a fresh start.”

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