Louisiana Music Commission to be Euthanized

Heartbeat of the LMC from 2005 to Present

After 4 years of lifeless existence under the direction of Chairwoman Maggie Warwick, the Louisiana Music Commission (LMC) is finally being put out of its misery. As reported in newspapers a few weeks ago, after July 1 the LMC will disappear. The articles quoted Ms. Warwick as saying she “supports eliminating it.” That’s like quoting Nero during the burning of Rome.

I would like to congratulate Ms. Warwick for her vision and talent in destroying the state’s (and nation’s) first agency dedicated exclusively to music. And thanks also to Lynn Ourso, the ostensible “director” of the LMC for directing it right into oblivion.

Though there were 15+ people appointed to serve on the LMC over the past 4 years, evidently none of them had the ability or power to grasp the controls and pull the LMC out of the dive it entered when it was eviscerated by (convicted and jailed former film office director) Mark Smith, then relocated and de-funded during the Blanco years (with the assistance of former Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Mike Olivier). To those members who tried, really tried to represent the best interests of musicians, I say thank you. To those who colluded with and bought-in to the tired and ineffective leadership of Ms. Warwick and Mr. Ourso–and you know who you are–I say that the proof is in the pudding. And yours turned out to be a runny, smelly failure.

Since 2006, when they finally wrested control of the remnants of the LMC that had been systematically weakened by their team, observing the Warwick-Ourso tenure was like watching an elderly nursing home patient slowly, painfully gasp for breath–for month after month after month. It was a pathetic and absurd situation. And now it’s finally over.

The coroner has declared the patient dead but did not cite the cause. I say it was starvation, deprivation, and neglect compounded by malpractice and out-of-touch stewardship. And there will be no investigations, no funeral, no accurate recapitulation or memorial. This will likely be my last blog on that subject. And for that, I’m sure some will be grateful.

I’m proud of the work Ellis Marsalis, Bernie Cyrus and I did, but we were far from alone. From 1992 to 2006 literally hundreds of people helped us achieve unprecedented levels of support for Louisiana music. Because of our work, thousands of Louisiana musicians appeared on radio and television; tens of thousands of elementary school students statewide experienced living jazz history lessons; sites were saved (though many were lost); and attention to the health and welfare of working musicians was raised to new levels not surpassed until the tragedies of the failed levees of Katrina. You can read about what we did here: LMC Summary Report 1992-2003.

The LMC is dead. And though I spent 25+ years in music, it was always with a focus on environmental and social justice issues, on reducing our impact and helping the needy. Today, that’s what I do full time. I love music. I hope to play again some day. But I have a great job and a mission to bring positive change to the way we live. I am blessed to be where I am today.

Music is vital to our quality of life in Louisiana. Perhaps one day it will benefit from dedicated resources and support equal to what we give other industries such as agriculture, petrochemicals and film. One day. But not today.


4 responses

  1. And the Louis Armstrong postage stamp.

  2. Your commentary as always is intelligent and to the point. Unfortunately I’ve lost touch with my musical interest since our early days of LTV. Reading your post reminded me of the passion we all shared knowing that we were on the cutting edge of promoting one of our states great resources. I remember the day when fate brought Bernie, Ernets, You and I together to combine our individual ideas into a vibrant and much needed project.
    Even though I drifted off from the project and the music scene I still admired the passion and effort you guys poured into the Music Commission.

    Your read on the situation about the Music Commission further enhances what I see as the problem with Government, Big Business, and even Society as a whole: Incompetance and Complacency. Peter Principle is thriving more today than ever.

    The state of Louisiana has programs that recieve federal monies for projects with deadlines three years past due. The contractors are still sucking off the teat, and will continue to do so till it dries with out a care of fullfilling the mission of servicing the public.

    BP is obviously run by incompetants. But why hasn’t the government stepped in to stop this enviormental disaster? It is either incompetance or money. Probably both. Even if BP doesn’t know how to stop the leak someone from another more competant oil company does. Why don’t they step and help the people and the enviorment? There must be some big money factor stopping them regardless of what it does to their brothers and sisters on this planet.

    I wish superman was real and he was here now!

  3. Thanks, Tony and Ken. I’m worried about the LTV archives which are at Tulane’s Hogan Jazz Archives in the capable and dedicated hands of Bruce Raeburn. Tonight I heard Cookie Gabriel on WWOZ and remember how LTV revived her career. She was away from the public eye for more than a decade when she appeared on the show. After her appearance, she began performing again for the remainder of her life. She was one of several older artists to appear on the show whose career relaunched. For others, it was their last live appearance on television. LTV needs to be transferred to digital and cataloged so we can re-live it. More than 300 artists performed over the course of the show’s 100 episodes. There are some real gems amongst those many shows.

  4. Good write, Steve…hopefully this will begin a new era with some cooperation from the State and LED specifically to actually make progress in re-developing Louisiana’s music industry.
    With oil suspended and seafood dying, we need our music industry up and running again.
    The LMC seemed like a good idea, but has, interestingly enough, run concurrent with the fall of our music industry. Coincidence?

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