New Orleans Institution Preservation Hall co-founder Sandra Jaffe dies at 83
Sandra Jaffe, co-founder of Preservation Hall in New Orleans, passed away peacefully Monday, December 27 at the age of 83, her son Ben Jaffe confirmed via Instagram.
When opening Conservation room, Jaffe played a major role in preserving the unique blend of African, Caribbean and European music known as jazz, for which New Orleans is famous today. The famous jazz auditorium also contributed to the integration of the city by welcoming all audiences and artists of all races at a time when the South was largely segregated. After 60 years of activity, Preservation Hall remains a integral part of New Orleans culture.
Courtesy of the Jaffe family
Sandra Smolen Jaffe was born to Russian immigrant parents on March 10, 1938. Raised in social housing in Philadelphia, Jaffee attended nearby Harcum College where she studied public relations and journalism. After graduating, she worked for a Philadelphia advertising agency while taking night classes at the University of Pennsylvania.
During this time, she met her future husband Allen Jaffe while watching a play in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. The couple married on Christmas Day in 1960 and embarked on a Kerouac-style adventure in Mexico City. At the end of their long honeymoon, as they headed back north, they stopped in New Orleans to look for jazz records. The decision changed their lives and the fate of the city forever.
In an Instagram tribute to his late mother, Jaffe’s son Ben wrote this about his parents’ fateful trip to The Big Easy: âThey stopped in New Orleans and, like others before and afterwards, found themselves swept away by the beauty, romance, excitement, mystery, freedom, history and charm of the city. “
While in town, the couple attended a traditional jazz performance at the Larry Borenstein Art Gallery in the French Quarter. Bewitched by what they heard, they decided to extend their stay if only to attend a few more performances.
âWhen I first heard the music, I felt a total transformation,â Jaffe wrote in a blog post on the Preservation Hall website. “We discovered this whole new worldâ¦ the music was so wonderful.”
After a few days Borenstein came to young jazz lovers with an unexpected proposal. He wanted them to take care of hosting jazz shows in space, as he moved the art gallery next door.
âWe didn’t even think about it,â Jaffe said. Patches, the Harcum College Alumni Magazine. “It wasn’t even a thought. ‘Of course,’ we said, and it was the start of Preservation Hall. We never left New Orleans.”
Sandra and Allan conducted the hall together for the next 26 years before Allan’s death in 1987. During these years, Allan played sousaphone for the hall’s house band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and served as the venue reservation agent. During this time, Sandra handled the ins and outs of keeping the business going, especially as a hostess and bouncer on the particularly noisy nights.
As Creative Director of Preservation Hall and Head of Preservation Hall Band, Ben will carry on the incredible legacy left by his parents. Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations to be made for Foundation of the Preservation Hall, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation and perpetuation of New Orleans music and culture through music education experiences.
Jaffe is survived by his two sons Ben and Russell Jaffe, his younger sisters Resa Lambert and Brenda Epstein and his four grandchildren Alaina, Rebecca, William and Emma Lena.
Our hearts go out to family, friends and Jaffe jazz enthusiasts all over the world.