Sharing Musical Experiences With The Tulalip Tribes & The Preservation Legacy Band: Ashley Shabankareh
Two years ago, I was approached by one of our wonderful supporters, Jessica Talevich, after she had seen the Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform in Seattle, WA. At the time, Jessica was serving as the Employee Assistance Counselor/Art Therapist for the Tulalip Tribes, a Native American Sovereign Nation 45-minutes north of Seattle, WA. The tribe was in the wake of tragedy after a fatal school shooting, and she wanted to find a way to help contribute to the tribe’s healing journey. As Jessica put it to me when we first spoke, “when it comes to rebuilding communities, New Orleanians can teach a master class.”
In response to the tragedy in Tulalip, the tribe brought in a series of speakers and experts; however, Jessica felt it was crucial for us to bring in the creative arts as a healing response for the community. After two years of extensive planning, we brought the Preservation Hall Legacy Band to provide outreach to the Tulalip Tribes.
Myself and the Preservation Hall Legacy Band, made up of Gregg Stafford, Louis Ford, Freddie Lonzo, Joe Lastie, Richard Moten, and Lars Edegran, traveled to Tulalip, WA on Sunday, May 14th, ready to perform and speak with the youth of the community about jazz history, culture, and the importance of keeping traditions alive.
Words cannot adequately express the tremendous impact the Tulalip Tribes made on the Preservation Hall Legacy Band and I from the second we arrived. During the band’s first performance at Quil Ceda Elementary School, students greeted us with a Tulalip Welcome Song. There was deep passion in the tribal drums they played and through the tribal language they sang in (Lushootseed). We were able to engage with their students by performing Traditional New Orleans Jazz songs, teaching students about our culture and even engaging in a little Second Lining within their auditorium. After the band’s first performance at Quil Ceda, young students from the audience came up and asked for autographs and for the band to sign their drums sticks.
As the first day progressed, we saw students from Heritage High School, Mt. View High School, Arts & Tech High School, 10th Street Middle School, and Totem Middle School. Many students in the audience were musicians themselves, asking the band a variety of questions from who their favorite musicians were to questions about what type of mutes and mouthpieces they were using. Of course, when a young student asked ‘how long have you been playing?’ the band grinned from ear to ear and responded ‘oh, about twenty-five minutes now.’ It was those lighthearted moments where the students and band were interacting and laughing together that were so important for this whole experience. Music was an outlet for the Preservation Hall Foundation to provide joy and inspiration to the students in the community.
Later that evening, several musicians and myself took part in a Sweat Lodge, led by Lisa and Whakaadup Monger. The Sweat Lodge was an incredible experience, with such a spiritual and healing aspect to it (not to mention, hot!). By far, out of everything on this trip, this was number one on my list of“Things I Never Expected to Do with the Musicians of Preservation Hall.”
On our second day, after a tour of Tulalip, hosted by Tulalip tribal member Freida Williams, the band performed for the community at large at the Hiblub Cultural Center. Audience members danced and joined Freddie Lonzo as he got the room up to dance for ‘St. Louis Blues.’ Following the performance, the band and audience discussed topics about our cultural heritage and how many aspects of New Orleans related to the Tulalip.
Later that day, we hosted master classes with the jazz band programs at Totem Middle School, Getchell High School, and Marysville-Pilchuck High School. In the individual sectionals, topics ranged from how to reach higher notes on your instrument to method books to use and more. I was lucky enough to be loaned a trombone that afternoon to join in on the master classes, too! At the end of the master classes, the band and the students rehearsed several songs from our Brass Bandbook.
Our final day of our trip to Tulalip was jam-packed. We started our morning performing for 1,000 students from Getchell High School, and then quickly ran over to perform for another 1,000 students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. In both performances, I felt like we were at a Beatles concert – the students were applauding and screaming in joy! It was so wonderful to see so many students reacting positively to the music being performed for them.
The culmination of the trip was the final performance the Preservation Legacy Band did, alongside the Getchell and Marysville-Pilchuck High School Jazz Bands. Students performed an arrangement of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s original tune ‘Sugar Plum,’ and also performed on tunes like ‘Down By the Riverside.’ Freddie, Gregg, and Louis all made special appearances alongside the students during the concert.
During the Legacy Band’s performance, the band shared the stage with Native American Grammy Award winner, Star Nayea, who did a fabulous performance of ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and ‘Little Liza Jane.’ The crowd sang along to songs like ‘What a Wonderful World,’ and gave the band a great send off by second lining in the audience to ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’
When we started out with creating this outreach trip, we wanted to create a multi-cultural experience, using music to help break down barriers and create bonds. This went far beyond any of my expectations. By the end of the trip, we worked with over 4,000 students!!! Witnessing our musicians engage with the students from the Tulalip Tribes was both inspiring and impactful. As an educator, the trip truly reiterated the importance of sharing culture, especially with other communities here in the US. I will never forget this trip and witnessing firsthand how the power of music can bring cultures and communities together.
To Jessica Talevich, the Marysville-Pilchuck School District, and everyone we worked in the Tulalip Tribes – t̕igʷicid.