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The Daily Wildcat

73° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cure for the blues

    The first Annual Mardi Gras Celebration, a benefit for the Community Food Bank, will feature New Orleans style food, Mardi Gras parades, a costume contest and the band JazzWerx.

    Stephanie Porter, a pre-business sophomore and youth board member of the board of directors for the Community Food Bank, said she wanted UA students involved in the benefit.

    Porter said JazzWerx, which has a mix of UA students along with middle and high-school students, agreed to perform after she contacted the music department, and students volunteered from the theater department to dress up for the event.

    “”Being in Tucson has turned into a dream come true.””
    – Joseph DeSpenza, musician and former New Orleans resident

    “”We want the event to have a young atmosphere,”” Porter said.

    A featured performer for the Mardi Gras event will be former New Orleans resident Joseph DeSpenza, along with his band, “”New Orleans Blues Exodus.””

    DeSpenza, a Katrina evacuee, spent eight days stranded on the 11th floor of his New Orleans apartment, clutching to his saxophone, said Pauline Hechler, vice president of development for the food bank.

    He was eventually rescued by a helicopter and flown to Tucson.

    “”I don’t believe I was alive until I got here,”” DeSpenza said in a press release. “”Being in Tucson has turned into a dream come true.””

    Another former New Orleans resident will also participate in the benefit.

    Brice Winston, a world-class tenor saxophone player who lived and worked in New Orleans for 16 years, is the director of JazzWerx.

    “”We help the students develop their skills and move in the direction they want to go,”” Winston said. “”JazzWerx exposes them to big bands and small groups. It helps them function as part of the band and not solely as an individual.””

    JazzWerx is the educational component of the Tucson Jazz Society, and aims to give young students the chance to experience jazz, according to their Web site.

    Along with the University of Arizona School of Music and UApresents, JazzWerx hosts workshops with professors and artists.

    “”We provide opportunities for music education interns to work with our students as part of their training to teach jazz band,”” said Karen Hanshaw, education chair of Tucson Jazz Society. “”Other students often come sit in to observe these meetings.””

    The Community Food Bank benefit will be held at the Manning House in Tucson tomorrow from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tickets for the gala are $100, $60 of which is tax-deductible.

    Tickets are available online at or by calling 622-0525, extension 492. All proceeds will go directing to the Community Food Bank to help hungry people in Southern Arizona.

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