Music commemorates challenging times

Preservation Hall Jazz Band to play in 7 Iowa cities for Living With Floods event

Written by Steve Parrott and published by IowaNOW.

Preservation Hall

The Living with Floods project will culminate June 7-16 with free public concerts by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans.

It just makes sense that the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB) would be booked to provide the music for Living With Floods, a statewide project to commemorate historic floods in 2008 and 2011.

The University of Iowa-led effort culminates this June with free concerts in seven cities that were affected by the floods. The concerts, set for June 7-16, are the brainchild of the UI’s Hancher with help from six additional UI organizations.

After weathering Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans-based PHJB knows well the heartaches endured as well as the determination required to rebuild flood-ravaged communities.

The band’s return also completes circle of history for Hancher, whose original auditorium was damaged beyond repair in the flood of 2008. PHJB was the first to perform when that building opened in 1971. Now more than 40 years later, it returns as the university prepares the foundation for a new Hancher.

All of that explains why Hancher executive director Chuck Swanson says that PHJB is “the perfect capstone” for Living With Floods. “They are really into this,” he says. “They want to do the best job that they can.”

The connections do not surprise Ben Jaffe, PHJB’s creative director and son of the PHJB’s co-founders, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, but he acknowledges their significance.

“For some reason, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band seems to be at the center of an inordinate amount amazing, unpredictable situations,” he notes. “This is another one. Here we are 43 years later, coming back again. And to come back with this theme of water and rivers, considering what New Orleans has been through.”

New Orleans and the Iowa communities that suffered through serious flooding face not only the challenges of physically rebuilding, but also of emotionally rebuilding, Jaffe says. “Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that at the core of all this are humans and a community that need to be protected while all this rebuilding takes place.”

Music can help on both levels. “In New Orleans, music was back before we had electricity and water,” Jaffe recalls. “Some people don’t understand that, but music is a spiritual, religious experience for us. We use music and food to bring people together to get through challenging times.

“Music allows us to celebrate and rejoice,” he adds.

Swanson agrees. “We’ve come a long way since the floods and that’s worth taking time to celebrate our successes and encourage each other for the tasks that lie ahead.”

Here’s the schedule for concerts:

• Des Moines, Friday, June 7, 7:30 p.m. The Venue

• Council Bluffs, Sunday, June 8, 5:30 p.m. River’s Edge Park

• Muscatine, Tuesday, June 11, 7 p.m. Riverfront Park

• Cedar Rapids, Thursday, June 13, 7 p.m. Brucemore Greenhouse Lawn

• Davenport, Friday, June 14, 6:30 p.m. LeClaire Park Bandshell

• Iowa City, Saturday, June 15, 4 p.m. UI Pentacrest

• Dubuque, Sunday, June 16, 3 p.m. McGraw-Hill Parking Lot

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to attend any of these concerts, contact Hancher in advance at 319-335-1140 or 1-800-HANCHER.


Chuck Swanson, Hancher, 319-335-1133
Steve Parrott, UI Communication & Marketing, 319-384-0037