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Local Berklee volunteers hit right note in New Orleans

Posted by Matt Byrne  May 17, 2011 10:04 AM

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Photo courtesy Berklee College of Music

Local residents Michael Heyman, far right, and Magen Tracy, second from right, built homes in New Orleans May 10-14 through a Berklee College of Music volunteer trip.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, efforts to rebuild in the birthplace of jazz continued last week with the help of local Berklee College of Music faculty and staff.

A group of eight volunteers included Medford resident Jenna Logue and Somerville residents Magen Tracy and Michael Heyman, who pitched in pouring concrete, framing doors and windows, and painting storm covers for a home in the seventh ward.

In its fifth year, the trip from May 10-14 was organized by Berklee's Gracenotes Volunteer Committee. Including this year's effort, 40 staffers or faculty members from Berkleee have traveled to Louisiana to participate in the slow rebuilding process, a commitment the college made after the storm, when musicians and artists were turned out of their home city by the rising flood waters.

Along the way, the educators and administrators blogged and photographed their experiences, from the nitty-gritty of pouring a concrete slab, to the personal connections built between the volunteers and residents.

"This trip is different for me: I haven’t been back since Katrina, and now it’s hard to find a way to express the tragedy that continues to challenge this city," wrote Heyman, a professor of Liberal Arts at Berklee, in a May 13 dispatch.

The volunteers helped to construct homes near the Musician's Village, a project organized by Habitat for Humanity. The homes were designed to speed the return of the city's musician and artist population.

Located in the Upper Ninth Ward, the center encompasses 72 single-family homes and five elder-friendly complexes, which have been completed, according to Habitat. A community center dedicated to music education and development is still under construction.

To read more of the Berklee group's tales and travails, check out their postings from the five-day trip.


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