Connections: New Orleans with Jazz Musician Ben Schenck

New Orleans is known for nothing if not its lasting legacy as the birthplace of jazz. The jubilant musical style sprung from the city’s melting pot of cultures, and continues to define the lively city to this day. Ben Schenck, a clarinet player, started Panorama Jazz Band with some friends in 1995 and has been playing ever since.

At All Roads North, we believe that a place is nothing without its people. So often, when we ask our clients the most memorable parts of their journey, it’s not the Instagram-worthy landscape or acclaimed hotel that they mention, it’s the encounters they had along the way.  That’s why our trips are carefully designed to make those connections, providing you with an authentic and immersive experience. These experiences– whether it be with a local craftsman, musician, chef or marine biologist– are the inspiration for our Connections series, where we talk to friends of All Roads North to get an insider’s look at some of our favorite places across the U.S.

Tell us about your New Orleans story?

The first time I visited New Orleans was during Carnival, 1984. My mom came for a work conference so I tagged along. I was 20 years old, in college and had just started working on clarinet. I remember hearing a band in Jackson Square and the music really got under my skin because there was nothing electric, it was all coming straight out of the instruments and hitting my body. 

I came back for JazzFest in 1987 and ’88 and the second time I lucked into a house-sitting situation. Went home, got my clarinet, my bike, some clothes and about $100. Came back, got a restaurant job and started house sitting everywhere I could. Started Panorama Jazz Band with a couple friends to play a wedding in 1995.  It has gradually evolved into 2 bands (the other is a marching band, Panorama BRASS Band) plus a bunch of recordings under the name PanoramaLand (Check out our song-of-the-month club Good Music For You on We play every 1st, 3rd (and occasional 5th) Saturday of the month at The Spotted Cat Music Club, 623 Frenchmen St.

Ben Schenck on the clarinet

Ben Schenck on the clarinet

What’s something that New Orleans does better than anywhere else?  


What major New Orleans attraction lives up to the hype?  

A real neighborhood second-line. There’s nothing else like it anywhere.

New Orleans Second Line

A New Orleans Second Line

What’s your favorite neighborhood to wander? 

I do wander around uptown with my dog a fair amount but I still love the Bywater. It has gentrified quite a bit since I lived down there in the 90s. It’s less authentic, less working-class, but spiffier and still very charming.

Underrated in New Orleans, overrated in New Orleans, personal favorite, and recent discovery?  

Underrated – the parks, the live oaks; Overrated – most of the tourist traps in the French Quarter; Personal favorite just riding my bike around a pretty day. Dropping in on friends. Recent discovery – A tiny Indian restaurant in Algiers called Plume. Unreal tastes.

New Orleans Live Oaks

What’s your Sunday morning in New Orleans?  

Lately, the New York Times with breakfast and green tea followed by meeting for worship at the Friends Meeting of New Orleans (I’m a Quaker).

What restaurant do you take friends from out of town for dinner, a casual local’s favorite, and a weekend brunch? 

Dinner: High Hat Cafe on Freret St. Casual local’s favorite: Sarita’s Latin Fusion: they’re like family over there. Weekend brunch: my house!

Where do you go to get into nature? 

New Orleans City Park

New Orleans City Park

In City Park, some of the golf courses went to seed after Hurricane Katrina. So there are these wild, overgrown spaces with little sidewalks running through them. There’s also a disc golf course nearby and I like that.

What are the best places to hear live music in New Orleans? 

I can vouch for Frenchmen St. It can be hit-or-miss but you can sometimes catch a great band having a good night with an attentive, appreciative audience and you’ll never forget that.


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