Monthly Archives: November, 2006

Louisiana Music Commission: Still on the Back Burner

As Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and her administrative leaders head into the final year of her first term, music continues to languish.

When the Blanco admininstration assumed power three years ago, you could hear the air hissing out of the Louisiana Music Commission (LMC) as it’s funding shrank with each new fiscal budget. Now, nearly a year after the end of the unprecedented 14 year run of Chairman Ellis L. Marsalis Jr., whose impeccable leadership was tapped by 3 governors, Governor Blanco still has not made appointments to the board.

According to the website of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LDED), Lynn Ourso, who held the job of Executive Director more than twenty years ago, has again assumed the position. However, since state statutes that create the LMC clearly note only the board hires (and fires) the director, how can Ourso legally hold the job? LA R.S. 25:315 also states, “The Louisiana Music Commission is hereby created within the Department of Economic Development and shall be domiciled in the greater New Orleans area.” Ourso works out of the offices of LDED in Baton Rouge.

The Blanco administration began dropping the ball with the LMC long before the tragic flooding and devastation of the storms of 2005. What hurts now is how state and local government continues to miss the enormous opportunity caused by the worldwide outpouring of support and assistance for music in Louisiana. Fortunately for musicians, private sector institutions are doing an amazing job.

Like tens of thousands of people, I lost my belongings to the flood, including 3 guitars, 3 amps, a piano and decades of personal musical history. I feel blessed to have received assistance from NARAS/Music Rising, which helped me replace some of the instruments I lost.

Thousands of musicians like me are being helped by private organizations. Nevertheless, there was and is a role for state and local government. Via the LMC, the state should be providing resources, information, coordination and LEADERSHIP. It hasn’t happened.

The Blanco Administration, and LDED Secretary Mike Olivier, acting on bad advice from power-hungry people with strong conflicts of interest, crippled then dismantled the LMC. Now there is no strategic plan to restore, renew and rebuild music in Louisiana. As this administration heads into an election year, will music continue to be mishandled?

The Blanco administration’s plan for music is clearly overdue. And if current polls hold true through election day, it might be too late for them to take effective action.

Is LA R.S. 25:315 no longer a binding statute? It would be nice to hear a legal opinion on the matter.

Peace on Earth and Happy Holidays to All!