To become a jazz musician at the age of 14 requires a great deal of passion and dedication. LaTasha Bundy (B ’14, SLA ’14, MA ’21), a born-and-raised New Orleans musician, has carried both with her from a very young age. Today, Bundy is a master’s candidate in musical composition who has studied with composer Roger Dickerson and New Orleans musicians such as Clyde Kerr, Jr. and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. Completing her third degree from Tulane University in Spring 2021, Bundy also collaborates with and receives guidance from School of Liberal Arts professors and renowned musicians Courtney Bryan and Richard Snow on a weekly basis.
What does one do with all of these lessons from teachers and contemporaries? Pass it on, of course. “It’s just something you do,” Bundy explains. “I’ve had the elders teach me, and the generation under them have also taught me. You pass on your knowledge and practice to the next people—that’s a New Orleans musician thing.”
Since 2013, Bundy has helped Scott transfer his hand-written music to digital sheet music. Then, when Bundy was working at the annual Stanford Jazz Workshop one year, Grammy-nominated musician Patrice Rushen sparked her interest in film scoring programs at universities. She began looking into offerings and started exploring software programs such as Cubase, a digital audio workstation (DAW ), where she could teach herself how to create music for movies and video games. Not surprisingly, she was soon ready to help the next generation learn this skill.
Throughout June and July 2020, Bundy taught New Orleans’ youth computer coding at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the city’s Ninth Ward neighborhood. While teaching is not new to Bundy—over the years she has taught students trumpet and piano—lessons took on a new format this summer, occurring through one-on-one Zoom video calls due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While coding is a part of many schools’ curriculum in the city, it is generally only offered in the private schools. Bundy decided to help teach coding this summer because it is an important skill within the music industry and beyond. As Bundy explains, “we want to make sure the kids in the neighborhood are not left behind if their schools aren’t offering it.”
Daryl Dickerson, the Director of Music Education and Audio Engineering at the Ellis Marsalis Center, is thrilled with Bundy’s commitment to the students and the center. “LaTasha’s experience in music, as well as in music production, allows her to engage our students not only in sound design and studio recordings, but also in music theory. Her exuberant spirit captivates her students’ mind, body, and soul,” said Dickerson. “As director of education, I wish I had a hundred teachers that carried her passion.”
You pass on your knowledge and practice to the next people—that’s a New Orleans musician thing.LaTasha Bundy
Teaching Swift code to students between the ages of seven and 14 this past summer is just the first step of her work with the Ellis Marsalis Center. Bundy also participates in the Mellon Graduate Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship at Tulane, an innovative initiative of the School of Liberal Arts and the Office of the Provost in which graduate students work with faculty and community members as mentors on a specific project. As part of her work as a Mellon fellow, Bundy will continue her work at the Marsalis Center in 2021 with the older youth creating a new plugin for various computer audio programs. “We’ll start by recording notes with professional musicians in a real studio space with real equipment. Then we’ll work with different articulations of those notes, such as different volumes, and use a sampler and midi controller to transfer those sounds into a new digital composition.” Keeping the youth’s professional development and personal investment at the forefront, the students will also learn important aspects of recording in general—including mic placement, how to use an audio interface, and how to create certain sounds from plugins—so if they want to make a track at their house, they know how. Students helping develop this plugin will also receive royalties whenever their music is sold.
Reflecting on her personal experiences at jazz camps, from the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp to local high schools and universities, Bundy speaks about her work with students excitedly. “It’s amazing to work with these children. Particularly the little ones—they get really excited about figuring out this new puzzle, which is really fun for them. But they’re actually learning a concept of something much bigger.”