New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz music. This unique form of music plays a large part in the culture of southeast Louisiana.
Another American institution that can trace its roots to New Orleans since 1972 is Popeyes Fried Chicken. When one thinks music, does fried chicken come to mind?
The Central Lafourche High School Lancer Band may certainly think so after receiving a $10,000 prize for winning the 2nd Annual “Popeyes Love That Music Contest”.
Participating schools in the greater New Orleans region were asked to send in a video of their band performing a New Orleans inspired song and complete two essay questions: How does being in the New Orleans area inspire the music that you play at your school and, how will you use the prize money to better your school’s music program?
Because there are some 54 Popeyes restaurants throughout the Greater New Orleans area, the contest was divided up into 3 regions receiving entries from dozens of schools.
Region 1 winners Central Lafourche High School, along with Region 2 winners St. Augustine High School and Region 3 winners Riverside Academy each received their $10,000 prize from Popeyes on Wednesday in New Orleans from the Popeyes New Orleans co-op of franchisees.
So why is Popeyes getting into the high school music game?
“We realize that funds can be short at local schools and many are still rebuilding their music programs from Hurricane Katrina,” says Barb Ernat, Regional Marketing Manager for Popeyes.
“Popeyes started here in New Orleans 42 years ago. Our restaurants here in New Orleans are proudly operated by New Orleanians who are passionate about the communities they serve,” she says. “So we wanted to do our part to help out, which is why we created the Love That Music contest as a way to give back to the people we serve here in our community.”
If you watch the CLHS video entry on Youtube.com (search: Central Lafourche H.S. “Love That Music” Contest 2014), you understand why they beat out other Region 1 schools from Terrebonne, Jefferson, St. Charles, Lafourche and Plaquemines parishes to win.
How CLHS plans to use the prize money, essay question #2, just ask four year band director Willie Martin.
“During the last 3 years, our band has nearly doubled from 114 to 200 members,” says Martin. “We’ve spent nearly $100,000 on new instruments and equipment. And, the band is guaranteed to swell to even greater numbers next year. We have nearly 80 incoming freshmen into our 2015-2016 band program.”
Martin knows the freshmen coming into his program next year … he’s grooming them in anticipation of their transition to high school. Martin, along with assistant band directors Craig Byers and Casie Forbes, team teach at the middle schools in the area. This technique allows for a unique, one-on-one approach.
“The band director at the middle schools works with the band, and we can individually pull out kids and work with them on the side,” added Martin. “We are working in the middle schools in the mornings every day of the week.”
Martin and his two assistants rely heavily on each other as they jump from middle schools in the area and then return to their many duties at CLHS. Their music program at Central is comprised of the well known Trojan Lancer Band, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Indoor Percussion Ensemble and Winterguard. There are even cadet percussion and color guards.
The determination and drive has certainly paid off for CLHS. They boast one of the top band programs in the state.
“The last four years we were among the top five champions in the Louisiana Showcase of marching bands,” says Martin. “We are also class AAA state champions and state reserve grand champions.”
The marching band spends hundreds of hours practicing their craft between June through November.
“We spend nearly 400 hours working on our marching band shows,” says Martin. “300 of those hours are spent outside.”
All that practicing and the numerous competitions plays into a bigger, ultimate goal, one that Martin is striving to achieve.
“I want CLHS in the discussion when people talk about great high school bands,” he says. “Our goal is to have a nationally known band program.”
The CLHS band recently competed at the Lone Star Preview at the Woodlands High School in Houston, Texas and won in the finals. Those in Texas were surprised by a Louisiana team placing so high in the competition.
“They definitely weren’t expecting us, a small-town Louisiana team to win,” says assist and band director Byres with a sly chuckle.
Unfortunately the costs associated with running a first-class band program, from travel for competitions, to uniforms, instruments and equipment, adds up fast and easily eats through the school’s $3,000 band budget.
“Washing our uniforms alone costs $1,500,” says assistant band director Forbes. “And, we wash them at least four times a year.”
“It’s our band boosters that make all the difference for us. The only way we do what we do is because of them,” says Martin. “Raising money, sewing band uniforms, organizing fundraisers … we have a great group of band boosters. The $10,000 Popeyes ‘Love That Music’ monetary award is greatly appreciated and will certainly help with the costs of operating our first-class high school band program.”
Central Lafourche High School assistant band directors Casie Forbes, Craig Byers, and band director Willie Martin proudly display their $10,000 award from the New Orleans regional franchise Popeyes owners.
Posted on Fri, November 21, 2014
by Marc Kimball, Contributing Writer