Earlier this month, the Tralf Music Hall opened its doors for the fourth annual Big Easy in Buffalo Mardi Gras Jam.
The show was headlined by New Orleans native Tab Benoit with appearances by the Carl LeBlanc Band, also of New Orleans, and Buffalo's Heavenly Chillbillies.
Music Is Art's Battle of the Bands contest winner -- Kenmore East High School's Bluegrass Boulders -- opened the Mardi Gras Jam with a four-song set.
The Bluegrass Boulders consisted of Ian Boswell (senior), vocals; Ailsa Prohn (senior), banjo and vocals; Jacqui Harning (sophomore), violin; Josh Kluge (junior), bass; and science teacher Joseph Allen, guitar and vocals.
Jacqui and Josh were filling in for seniors Tim Valint and Alec Safy. Tim was attending a mandatory Suzuki Strings meeting, and Alec was preparing for a performance with the Erie County Jazz Ensemble.
"I was incredibly impressed by Ailsa, Allen, Josh and Jacqui who all did a wonderful job learning three new songs, and especially Josh and Jacqui who were invited Monday to play with us [Friday]," Ian said.
"It was really awesome to see my classmates and Allen performing at the Tralf. They did a great job," said sophomore Christine McDonald, who was in attendence.
The Bluegrass Boulders and students of Allen were invited to a meeting with Benoit, an environmentalist and bluegrass musician whose roots are strongly based in the Louisiana wetlands.
The meeting with Benoit was a precursor to the Kenmore East Music Department's return to New Orleans next spring. In 2008, the department went to New Orleans to do humanitarian work after Hurricane Katrina; this time around the group is looking to help the environment.
Benoit's knowledge of the wetlands led to his involvement with the film, "Hurricane on the Bayou," explaining the ramifications of the fate of New Orleans without the wetlands to be a natural buffer zone during hurricane season.
"You can't change mother nature to fit you. You have to adapt to it," Benoit said. "You're not going to change what it is initially. Just because you build a building on sinking land doesn't mean the building isn't going to sink."
"I remember watching his film four years ago when we went to New Orleans in the IMAX theater," Ian said. "I was floored by his passion then and it's only increased. He is truly a man who loves his home in the wetlands and will do anything to protect it -- we have this beautiful land that is being destroyed by big oil and apathy, and it's sad."
To help the wetlands, visit the website of Benoit's organization at voiceofthewetlands.org or to see a recording of the Bluegrass Boulders, go to youtube.com and search "Kenmore East High School Bluegrass Boulders."
Ashley Yager is a senior at Kenmore East.