Juilliard Students Perform for Volunteers

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It all started as an expression of gratitude. On an alternative spring break trip seven years ago, students from the Juilliard School had been spending the day on Ferry Place, a short street in the Carrollton area of New Orleans that has now been completely revitalized by the building of fourteen homes. The students had been working on three of those homes alongside students and other volunteer groups, and they decided they would show thanks to those who had joined them on site that week with a little performance.

“We just felt grateful to be around other volunteers and the NOAHH staff and to be able to build these homes,” said Sabrina Tanbara, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. “We loved hearing their stories and just admired the dedication of the NOAHH staff and volunteers. Performing was the best way our students knew how to say thank you to the NOAHH staff and the volunteers. It just became something the team does.”

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The next year, they performed again, and then it became tradition to cap their volunteer time with NOAHH with a series of dancing, singing, and acting performances. This year, they treated Widener University volunteers, NOAHH staff, and partners Marcia Garcia (with her father and sister) and the Imes family to everything from a D-Day monologue to to a violin performance to a medley of love songs. Their rendition of the Bob Gibson gospel song “You Can Tell the World” amazed the gathered audience through some impressive sustained notes, and the dance routine to “Come on Eileen” was a bit more jocular, as the small space and an unexpected lack of friction made the loose but well choreographed routine a joyous celebration. Everyone came together in the end for “Dancing in the Streets,” which got the entire crowd moving. It was a superlative performance, and NOAHH extends our gratitude to Juilliard for their work. Their talent is always a special treat for everyone who has the chance to witness it on site, and NOAHH is always thankful for the time they take to entertain as well as give back.

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“In some way, the team has felt that a part of them, their love of the performing arts, is imprinted into the house/site and hopefully that love is passed onto the other volunteers that work on that site and to the family that lives in that home,” Tanbara said. “Many of the students
are so used to the formalities of typical performances that they forget how special impromptu performances can be, both for us and the audience.”

Their volunteering efforts go beyond NOAHH. They also take time to teach, workshop, and perform at local schools, including NOCCA, KIPP Central City Academy, and Lusher Charter School, and they help Trinity Episcopal Church raise funds for the Shalom Zone, a youth development program, with a performance. Most of their volunteer work focuses on arts education, an area of expertise for the Juilliard students, and while some students have volunteered before or even had some construction experience, for most, building a home is not part of their usual routine.

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“We have fallen in love with the city of New Orleans over the years,” Tanbara said. “Our teams have loved the experience of building a home, creating a space that is made through hard work, team effort and love. The students get to do something outside of their comfort zone and outside of their daily rituals. As one student said, ‘I enjoy working with Habitat because it’s great to slip on some work gloves on and actually do something to tangibly affect change.'”

That drive has brought Juilliard students to New Orleans seven years in a row, making them an important part of our ongoing progress in the fight against poverty housing in New Orleans. The uplift and celebration of their performances is just a small part of the great work they’ve done for our city, and NOAHH is proud to continue to partner with them.

You can see more of their performances here.