Sit back, close your eyes and listen. One of New Orleans’ bright stars, a pianist named Ronald, is sure to impress. He oozes talent the way any virtuoso would who’s spent his life at the keyboard. Now open your eyes and you’ll be truly amazed. Ronald is a high school junior. And he’s just one among the stable of young artists studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), the local arts conservatory for high school students. It’s the same place where Harry Connick, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, and Irvin Mayfield honed their skills.
I spent yesterday afternoon at NOCCA to witness firsthand a shining example of a New Orleans institution that truly works. I was inspired as much as entertained. NOCCA is remarkable not only for nurturing amazing talents, but for having students that reflect the resiliency and resolve that pours forth from the City’s soul. Ronald, like many other NOCCA students, lost just about everything (including his piano) in the floods following Katrina. His talent and desire, however, were unrepressed. He studied at Julliard while the City got back on its feet, but he couldn’t wait to settle in again at NOCCA. A number of students were so anxious to return that they are living with friends despite their own families being unable to move back to the City. They need New Orleans and NOCCA the way we all need air to breathe. New Orleans – a place where music and the arts are literally the heartbeat of the City – no doubt needs them equally as much. Come out to support NOCCA and its aspiring young artists and you'll play a part in New Orleans’ revival and just might catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s biggest stars.