Even with 'Idol' success, Connick never forgets his roots - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Even with 'Idol' success, Connick never forgets his roots

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Harry Connick Jr. hit the big time long before American Idol. But even with his latest resurgence of fame, he never forgets his roots. He proved that on a visit back home this week.

Connick played piano on the stage of the old Civic Theatre. The song was purely New Orleans, just like the artist. The idol judge headlined a benefit for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. But he said it was Ellis Marsalis who benefited him. Connick called Marsalis on the phone when he landed the American Idol gig.

"I wanted to thank you," Connick told him. "I am qualified to do this because of you and Dr. Breaud at NOCCA."

"The mentorship I had from Ellis, specifically Ellis, is what allowed me to be articulate in this job and every other thing I've ever done," Connick said.

Now, Connick is giving young people his take on their talent. Standing with friend Branford Marsalis, he says it's far different from what they experienced as aspiring musicians.

"The difference is the way we grew up, it was much more mentoring," Connick said. "You play and get dialogue of how you get better."

Connick began learning from New Orleans masters at an early age. He knew as a child that music was for him.

"It's all I knew how to do," he said. "I wasn't on a sports team. I was not a good student. All I did was music."

Connick exploded onto the scene in 1989 singing on the soundtrack of "When Harry Met Sally." Like the Idol contestants, he was young, and he was the one being critiqued.

"Most of the time I get reviewed, I'm not being reviewed by my peers but it's people who review for a living," Connick said. "What I care about is if Branford calls me and says, ‘I like your record', or ‘that wasn't my favorite' - that's what I listen to."

A young man from the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music took the Civic Theatre stage with his guitar. He performed well, and Connick gave him a review that would have sent him all the way to Hollywood.

"You are making us very proud," Connick told him. "You keep doing that, and you're the reason the legacy continues."

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