Local musicians provide inspiration after flooding

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Local acoustic singer Jenn Rees is known for shaking up perceptions by performing various genres of music, but recently Rees used her talent to connect to a different kind of audience: those who were affected by recent flooding in Louisiana.

Along with fellow local musician Taylor Larche, Rees performed at the Michael J. Kennedy Center located at 601 W. Coleman Street in Hammond on Monday, Aug. 14.

According to Rees, she felt compelled to visit the closest shelter after seeing Facebook posts about the financial and material support that many were sending to flood victims.

“The idea was a result of innovative empathy,” said Rees, a sociology graduate student. “As a broke college student, I’m not able to donate much in either of these areas, so I figured donating my time and talents to spread smiles and a moment of hope was the best way I could reach out to those suffering around me. I wanted to do something to help lift the spirits of those in our local community.”

Because of Rees and Larche’s familiarity performing together and the spontaneity of the performance, there was not time for practice or preparation.

“I posted an open invite Facebook status with the time and location and kinda just hoped for the best,” said Rees. “The music was an ongoing dialogue between the two of us and the shelter refugees and volunteers.”

Larche, also known by his stage name as Taylor James, is a local singer and guitarist. He previously studied criminal justice at Southeastern in 2010.

During a sociology class taught by professor Rebecca Hensley, Larche met Rees at the beginning of his transition into a musician.

“I started learning guitar my freshman year in college and never looked back,” said Larche. “I love it and everything about music. I’m not sure how we initially started the actual conversation, but I’m sure it was probably in part to me inquiring about her guitar case that she always carried around. Eventually we started jamming and sometimes we would plop around campus and play.”

Having been born and raised in the local area, Larche has had experiences with all of the hurricanes during the course of his life and knows the importance of giving back during difficult times.

“For all the storms including Katrina and this flood, my immediate family hasn’t had any damage,” said Larche. “We held a lot of my family members in my house for Katrina including my grandparents who had to break through their roof back in the bayou in Slidell.”

“Very fortunate,” was the way that Rees described her experience with the recent flooding. 

“The water rose to both my front and back doorsteps and then receded,” said Rees.

Larche believes that he and his fellow musician’s actions are “a simple part of humanity.” Although he is aware of the devastation in several local areas, Larche has decided to focus on the positive effects of flooding such as togetherness in several communities.

“If you can help, you need to help however you can,” said Larche. “We are all one, therefore a stranger’s damage is my damage too. It’s bittersweet. While hearts and homes are lost, we find empathy with each other and it makes us realize that we are all family through our differences in cultures and backgrounds. We are all blood. It’s the best thing that I have to give to people other than my ear to hear them.”

Although Larche and Rees volunteered their talents with no intention of getting a response, the experience opened their eyes to witness the innocence of children.

“We weren’t doing it for a response really, but doing it made me and Jenn see the innocence of the children,” said Larche. “The kids came over and were playing around like they weren’t even bothered by having to be relocated because of the flood. That innocence is best preserved by making the kids feel at home and they responded to us being there by giving us smiles and high fives, so I consider that a job done.” 

To Rees, walking into the local shelter armed with guitar and fellow musician Larche was a rewarding, humbling and unexpected experience. 

“For me, music is medicine,” said Rees. “I’m just so thankful that I’m able to share this uplifting force with others. You could see the positive change in the looks on everyone’s faces. I think for them, it was a nice little break from the stressful reality of the flooding.”