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Preservation Hall Director leads a prestigious legacy

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Ben Jaffe performs with Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts to share the sound of New Orleans with Stillwater. 

The art of music brought people together through thick and thin.

Ben Jaffe, Preservation Hall Jazz Band Creative Director, was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Jaffe has held his position for over 30 years to help bring the power of his band to unite people in and out of New Orleans.

The impact of the band effected Jaffe and inspired him to make a difference.

“I started the Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund,” Jaffe said. “It’s still one of my proudest moments.”

He was able to bring over 3,500 instruments to New Orleans’ musicians.

Jaffe realized how much damage the storm would cause to people and their instruments. He used that moment as a time to give back to the public.

Jaffe is part of the Preservation Hall Foundation, which provides children with a chance to grow into future musicians. It supplies education and instruments to kids who aren’t fortunate enough to have a music program. Jaffe said he should love the community in the same way him and his band are loved.

“It’s one of the more beautiful aspects of what we do is to give back the way that we were blessed to have been taken under the wings of all the musicians when we were growing up,” Jaffe said.

Jaffe’s parents were in the band when he was a kid. Racial tensions were high, and the band was formed to unite people. People of all backgrounds were welcome to sit and enjoy the beauty of jazz.

“We see it everyday in New Orleans,” Jaffe said. “We see the power of music to bring people together.”

Jaffe said the musical tradition has been passed on throughout his career. He described his take on his most favorite experience. The comradery of the band members is special to him. He shares a bond with many of its members because of the family connection.

Even though the band enjoys playing with great artists, Jaffe said that the locality of his members is something that could never be broken.

“You get to see this beautiful continuity that is still very important in New Orleans,” Jaffe said. "You get to play and hang out with big time musicians and be on TV and do all these amazing things but that connection is the important thing about what we do.”