New Orleans musician offers summer music program to teen who stole his van

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 11:08 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tucked away on Broad St. between Ursaline and Esplanade Avenue, House of Brass has been a haven for locals and visitors who want a taste of brass band history, second-line culture, Mardi Gras Indians, and the like.

Save Our Brass Culture Foundation took over the building in November 2022, to promote the city’s deep-rooted culture and make sure it’s not lost to time.

“Preserving the culture is important. That’s why we have to teach the history,” Ersel Garfield Bogan, founder/president of Save Our Brass Culture Foundation, said.

Bogan has been leading the organization by offering programs, classes, concerts and festivals that educate people about topics ranging from costume-making to tours of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

But this summer, Bogan is launching a summer program for the next generation of brass bands, second-liners and masking Indians.

“Expect to learn how to play a horn. If they already play a horn, they can learn how to play second-line music or they can enhance what they already know,” Bogan said.

Children ages 8-15 can sign up for Summer Brass Camp from June 5 to June 30. Bogan, program leaders and even some prominent local musicians will teach children the basics of playing music and the stories of musicians that carved out the city’s music scene. At the end of the program, Bogan says there will be a porch concert, second-line and art displays so that the children’s work can be showcased.

Bogan says he wants the program to not only educate but offer the city’s youth an alternative to a summer of bad decisions.

“One of our biggest sayings is, saving our kids one note at a time,” he said. “What it does is is gives a child a chance to be something else, other than what the street has to offer them.”

Bogan wants to make an impact in the first year of his camp by giving the city’s youth an outlet they might not have otherwise. Especially one 14-year-old boy who just last month tried to steal Bogan’s van, with his trombone, wife’s purse and his firearms inside.

“My nephews were like they just took the car, they just took the car,” he said. “I put it out there (on Facebook) instantly because his face was on my mom’s Ring Camera and I was like, ‘Who is this kid? Let me know. He took some real valuable stuff from me.’”

Bogan says, social media friends eventually ID’ed the young offender but instead of turning him in to the police, Bogan offered the 14-year-old $2,000 in cash and a spot in his summer camp if he returns all of the stolen items.

“I said let’s get your life right and we can show you another way to make money legally,” Bogan said. “He can go through my program, have a chance to turn his life together, and you know we are going to make sure he gets what he needs if we get what we need.”

Garfield says he’s eager to get started with the 14-year-old and the 11 other children who have signed up thus far. And he hopes more youth will turn to music and start on a more engaging and rewarding path.

“It’s only getting worse so we have to comfort these kids. They need more love. They need more support,” he said.

With the summer months usually bringing in a higher crime rate, Dillard University Criminologist Ashraf Esmail, Ph.D. says organizations like the House of Brass are much needed.

“We see 35 to 40 percent increases in juvenile crime over the summer. I think the more you engage them in, like a paid job which is shown to be very effective, or an activity like this, will give them some objective in their lives,” Esmail said. “Anything that can get young people involved and put them in some activity that provides them with a positive influence, it will be very impactful.”

And while the House of Brass continues accepting instrument donations, lining up local musicians to work as guest teachers and uplifting the city’s talented youth, organizers say they can’t do their work alone.

“It takes a community. It takes a village to get this done. Not just one organization can do this by itself. It’s going to take for us to get together to get these kids off the street and get them in the right place,” Bogan said.

For more information about the Summer Brass Camp or to sign up online, visit Anyone interested in signing up can also do so in-person at the House of Brass at 1226 Broad St.

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