Columns » Blake Pontchartrain: New Orleans Trivia

Where did Louis Armstrong go to school?

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All


Hey Blake,

Where did Louis Armstrong go to school?

Dear Reader,

  Renowned jazz artist Louis Armstrong was born in the poorest section of New Orleans on Aug. 4, 1901. He grew up between Gravier and Perdido streets where "[M]ore people were crowded than you ever saw in your life," he said in an interview in 1954. As a child, Armstrong attended Baptist and Catholic churches and Baptist Sunday school. He participated in a church choir, which he credits with developing his singing skills.

  At the age of 6, Armstrong began his formal education at Fisk School for Boys, located on what today is Loyola Avenue. Music was an integral part of the curriculum at Fisk, and the school hired distinguished Creole musicians to teach there. It also had its own choir and presented operettas. Armstrong learned to read and write at Fisk, but he dropped out by 1912. On Dec. 31 of that year, Armstrong was arrested for shooting his stepfather's gun in celebration of the New Year and was sent to the Colored Waifs' Home for Boys, located at 301 City Park Ave. The building has since been demolished, and a new communications facility for the New Orleans Fire Department is now there.

  Armstrong was at the Colored Waifs' Home for more than a year, and in the autobiography Satchmo: My LIfe in New Orleans, he wrote that he was proud of the days he spent there. Armstrong eventually played in the school's band, which marched in neighborhood parades and performed at picnics.

  Armstrong's music education also came from hanging outside of music clubs and listening to horn players Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson and Joe Oliver. Oliver later became Armstrong's mentor and lured him to Chicago to perform with him.

  After touring the world, Armstrong settled in New York, where he died of a heart attack on July 6, 1971.

Add a comment