Looks Bright: 9th grader Morgan featured on national broadcast highlighting music education

Published 12:15 am Saturday, October 28, 2017

RESERVE — Jay Morgan had ambitions to participate in band from the time he was very young, but with limited music program opportunities in local schools, he thought he would have to wait until high school.

That changed three years ago when the VH1 Save the Music Foundation donated instruments to kick start the music program at LaPlace Elementary, and Morgan, a sixth grader at the time, found a passion for playing the saxophone.

Now a freshman at East St. John High School in Reserve, Morgan is enthusiastic about his position as saxophone co-section leader in band and intends to continue playing through his senior year.

St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George and student Jay Morgan smile on the set in New York City this month for “American Graduate.”

This month, he traveled to New York City along with Superintendent Kevin George to represent St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools and speak on how the VH1 Save the Music Foundation influenced his life.

He and George appeared in a PBS national broadcast as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, an initiative dedicated to supporting community-based solutions keeping students on track to earning a diploma.

Morgan said the broadcast highlighted programs from schools around the nation, and his interview focused on the role of music education in his life and in St. John Parish.

“When the VH1 program provided instruments for the schools, I had rhythm in my life again,” Morgan said. “It helps me bring out my inner talent.”

He also said participating in band gives him an incentive to keep his grades up and stay on the honor roll.

Freshman Jay Morgan receives instruction Wednesday morning from ESJH band director Llolowen Robinson.

George said there were no music programs in place at elementary schools when he became superintendent in 2013. After forming a partnership with VH1 Save the Music Senior Director Chiho Fiendler, he was able to take steps to implement new music opportunities.

Today, music programs exist in all elementary schools in the parish, George proudly announced during the broadcast, allowing students to explore and become acquainted with instruments prior to high school.

Morgan’s experience in band at LaPlace Elementary put him ahead of the game at East St. John High.

In band, he presents himself as a natural leader and a high level thinker on par with older students, according to band director Llolowen Robinson.

Jeremy Rodrigue, former band director at LaPlace Elementary, said Morgan showed a dedication to music as soon as the instruments arrived at the school.

In his seventh grade year, Morgan was the only student to win the perfect attendance trophy for band at a time when students were permitted to choose between attending band and physical education, Rodrigue said.

“Jay excelled on saxophone even after only a month or two of playing,” Rodrigue said, noting he picked Jay to perform for a VH1 Save the Music representative to show the progress being made at the school.

The PBS interview featuring Morgan and George can be viewed on American Graduate’s YouTube channel.

After the interview, Morgan made the most of his weekend in New York, taking time to explore the city with George and his mother, Andrea Beverly.

“I visited Times Square, the M&M’s Factory, the wax museum and saw A Bronx Tale on Broadway,” Morgan said. “It was a great experience in the Big Apple.”

A native of New Orleans, Morgan said he’s influenced by the rich fine arts culture of the region. He loves dancing to the rhythmic groove of jazz music and is inspired by high-energy second line bands.

Since moving to LaPlace in 2009, he said he’s enjoyed living in St. John Parish but feels truly at home when experiencing New Orleans culture.