The Preservation Hall Jazz Band-the Crescent City ensemble who tours internationally, perpetuating the art of New Orleans jazz-was granted a 2006 Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government, for those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, growth and support of the arts in the United States.
The PHJB began touring in 1963 and for a couple of decades, there were actually several bands touring under that name. Many of the band’s charter members performed with the pioneers who invented jazz in the early 20th century, including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Bunk Johnson. Past bandleaders include brothers Willie and Percy Humphrey, husband and wife Billie and DeDe Pierce and pianist wunderkind Sweet Emma Barrett. These founding artists-as well as dozens of others-passed on the tradition of New Orleans jazz to younger generations who now follow in their footsteps, such as current bandleader and trumpeter John Brunious.