Son of Jazz Icon Ellis Marsalis Jr. Starts Non-Profit to Support New Orleans Artists During Pandemic

KNOMA supplies financial assistance to “native New Orleans culture bearers,” a community that Delfeayo Marsalis says has been repeatedly overlooked in times of crisis.

The day after New Orleans jazz icon Ellis Marsalis Jr. died of complications from Covid-19, Peaches Records on Magazine Street put out a sign that read, "Thank you Ellis Marsalis for keeping NOLA music alive."

The sign made an impact on his son Delfeayo, who was looking for a way to support local musicians as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged his family's beloved city.

Ellis Marsalis Jr
Leon Morris/Getty Images

"The idea resonated with me and I realized that, yes, that's exactly what my father did in his own way, and that's the perfect name," he told CNN.

Delfeayo, a trombonist and music producer himself, founded Keep New Orleans Music Alive (KNOMA), to provide emergency relief to local musicians. The non-profit supplies financial assistance to "native New Orleans culture bearers," a community that Delfeayo says has been repeatedly overlooked in times of crisis.

The pandemic has hit musicians and artists particularly hard, because most artists are self-financed and depend on social activities to sustain their livelihoods.

"Many great musicians must hone their skills on the street corners or in bars. It's a tough business and now even tougher with all social activities on lockdown," Delfeayo explained to CNN.

"If you've ever been to New Orleans and you've had a great time, it usually starts because you heard the brass band on the corner. Or maybe you saw some kids out there tap dancing, they got those Coke bottle caps on their shoes," the Grammy-winner said in a video explaining why he founded KNOMA. "There's something about the street musicians. They give a lot of themselves. They're really serious, they study, and they play all day."

Even though KNOMA was born out of the coronavirus crisis, Delfeayo expects to stay and help the music scene "for years to come."

"We want it to be an ongoing process," Delfeayo told WWLTV. "Just like this culture. Just like our music is, it's ongoing, all the time."

To make a donation, visit You can specify how you want the money used and even dedicate it to a particular artist.

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