Don't Stop the Music
BY WARNER B. THOMPSON, J.D. ’19
In New Orleans, musicians are our historical figures, our myths, the closest thing we have to royalty. Our city’s history is filled with largerthan-life musical icons like Louis Armstrong, Charles “Buddy” Bolden, and Sidney Bechet, among others.
Next in the lineage is Loyola alumna Ashley Shabankareh ’10 (music education and music industry studies), M.M. ’12, with an emphasis in trombone. She’s part of the city’s new generation of musicians who, yes, remain committed to preserving the past—but also to pushing New Orleans and its music into the future.
She left Loyola an accomplished musician—and a devoted one. She is the current director of programs for the Preservation Hall Foundation, whose mission is to protect, preserve, and perpetuate the musical traditions and heritage of New Orleans. Part of her job is coordinating free music lessons for children in need and residencies for children who don’t have music programs at their schools, as well as securing financial resources for aging musicians who might not be eligible for the traditional safety net programs such as Social Security. By working with both the youngest and oldest musicians in the city, Shabankareh helps ensure traditions get passed on, but she also gets to create communities and bring music into the lives of local children, many of whom have faced traumas, learning disabilities, and delinquency—even incarceration.
In addition to her day job, Shabankareh serves on the boards of the Loyola University Young Alumni Pack and the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, and she is a member of the Camel Toe Lady Steppers, an all-female Mardi Gras dance krewe that holds an annual fundraiser for Roots of Music, a music education and mentoring program for low-income youth.
And alongside all of her service and preservation efforts, she makes sure to save time to play her trombone and sing. She performs regularly with her groups, Marina Orchestra and the Asylum Chorus. She’s also performed, though, with greats such as Allen Toussaint, Aretha Franklin, Theresa Andersson, Tao RodrÍguez-Seeger, Bedouin Soundclash, and many more.
It’s an experience that’s so New Orleans—the new generation playing alongside the old, carrying their legacy not by word of mouth but by personal contact And it’s this experience that makes her a perfect candidate to carry the torch of this city’s musical legacy while simultaneously bringing music into the lives of children who need it most of all.