High school marching bands spend months preparing to entertain Carnival revelers along parade routes and compete for prime spots near the front of the parade. One school with a rich marching tradition is George Washington Carver High School in the Ninth Ward. But the school was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and it took several years for Carver to restart a marching band.
WWNO education reporter Jess Clark spoke with Carver band director Jeffery Herbert this Mardi Gras season — four years after Herbert began to rebuild Carver’s marching band from scratch.
The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
HERBERT: Some people wonder, “How this band come from the back, from the rear to the front now?” It’s plain and simple: To be a part of this, you have to have your band on top: The music technique, the discipline, the lines are straight, the band look full.
HERBERT: Discipline is the key. To be a part of the band and for the community to see you at your best, it’s hard work. You have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment, ready to concentrate at all times. If you get that together, you won’t have no problem out of me, but when you miss, I’m telling you about it. And academically it’s no excuse about “OK, band practice was over at 6:30, I made it home about 7:30. Eight o'clock I was tired, I didn’t do my homework.” No. You have to have your homework done.
HERBERT: We in all the major parades. Wednesday we have Nyx, on Thursday night we have Muses, on Friday night we have Hermes, on Saturday night Endymion, Sunday night Bacchus, Monday, Orpheus. And I give them one day off, and that’s Carnival Day.
HERBERT: I want the tradition of the first band director who was here. Her name was Ms. Yvonne Bush. And as a kid I used to see Carver on Canal Street, and they was a part of the Rex parade, believe it or not, they were a part of the Rex parade in the late '70s. This is how I want my band to look.
HERBERT: My main goal, my main mission, is to one day Carver lead a parade. They have certain schools that always lead the parade. But I think we can break that barrier, and Carver can be the band to do that.
HERBERT: We have a song that’s called “The Ninth Ward,” alright. And “Ninth Ward” is pretty much about the struggle. No matter — we below sea level — no matter what happen, the Rams will continue to go on. The legacy will continue to happen. You have to believe it, you have to bleed green and orange. Nothing can stop us, not even the Katrina can stop us. We here. We here for New Orleans, and we here to stay.
WWNO’s education reporting is supported by Entergy Corporation.