Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Oh what a day, what a day! Everyone woke up this Monday morning to get ready to visit the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. I was particularly excited about today because NOCCA is my alma mater! Less than a year ago, I was a student there. It's so funny that I'm coming back to my old stomping grounds to "teach" the students, some of whom I took class with.

When we got to NOCCA, we were greeted by the ever-so-spirited Brian Hammell. He treated us to a wonderful lunch and showed us around NOCCA's campus. I had never actually been inside the new building, so it was cool to see how NOCCA is expanding. Then Mr. Wedberg and his tasteful handlebar mustache talked to us and got us pumped to start working with the students.

It was rewarding to see the marked growth of all of the jazz musicians that Zach, Sebastian, Jacob and I worked with. They played with a bit more conviction than when I last heard them. However, the four of us talked to them about embracing their sounds and owning their mistakes whenever they hit a "wrong" note. By doing that, it was really interesting to see how creative they could be given that liberating constriction.

Now for the group performance in the dance studio! Usually, the Juilliard students perform in Lupin Auditorium, but for some reason NOCCA decided to change it up. Luckily, us being artists, we could work with anything! Tiffany started us off with a soulful spiritual that gave me chills. Then it was time for Casey and me to improvise. It was so heartwarming to feel all the love that I was shown by the NOCCA students and faculty. It made me a proud alum. Casey killed it, as usual. This was probably our best yet! The students were mesmerized by JJ's monologue. Everyone got caught in the rain during Angela and Riley's duet. Natsuko and Allison skillfully executed some Bach, after which Jasminn performed an awesome monologue. All seven dancers boogied down to the ground during "Come On Eileen". The team song brought the house down as all the students eventually joined us for "Dancing in the Street."

It was so interesting being on the other side of the whole Juilliard/NOCCA exchange. It's actually pretty funny because a few years ago, I met Braxton (alto saxophone) and Enrique (trumpet) when they were participating in the project, and now we are in the same jazz ensemble at Juilliard. It's funny how things work out...

It was nice to end the day with a delicious dinner hosted by the Guariscos, Shreves and Schrenks. The home in which we dined was gorgeous as well. It felt so great to be amongst people who support the difference we Juilliard students are trying to make. Today, I really felt the spirit of the Crescent City. Boy, it's good to be home.

Jeffery Miller

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