Yvonne Busch Day

October 18, 1929 – February 28, 2014

Post War New Orleans ‘secret weapon’

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If you like the music, thank the music teachers.

If you think post-War New Orleans music and musicians are something special, thank Yvonne Busch.

Her students formed the literal backbone not only of the New Orleans scene, but also as treasured sidemen of some of the biggest names in jazz, R&B and popular music:

James “Sugarboy” Crawford, George Davis, Smokey Johnson, Harold Battiste, John Boudreaux, James Black, James Rivers, Tony Bazley, Herlin Riley, Sullivan Dabney, David Barard, Kermit Ruffins, Deacon John, Julius Handy, Walter Payton, Kidd Jordan, Alvin Baptiste, Wanda Rouzan, and many others.

Her students also included many doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, and community leaders.

After returning to New Orleans after her education at Piney Woods Country Life School, touring with the Swinging Rays of Rhythm, and teacher-training at Southern University in Baton Rouge, she became a public school teacher.

She taught for 32 years – a year at Booker T. Washington, six years at Joseph S. Clark, and twenty five years at George Washington Carver high school. She was briefly a member of William Houston’s big band, however she withdrew because of career demands.

She also performed with the Dooky Chase Orchestra.

As a teacher and band director she faced funding and instrument shortages and often used her own instruments and those of her acquaintances. She encouraged her students to play multiple instruments. She gave free private lessons and organized summer practice sessions for school bands. She directed large bands including marching bands.

A book that goes in depth into the important role public education played in the development of New Orleans music:

Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans (Studies in Jazz)


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