Harry Connick Jr. surprises Baton Rouge area school on national television

Harry Connick Jr. surprises Baton Rouge area school on national television
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana native Harry Connick Jr. surprised a Baton Rouge high school band on his new show "Harry" Thursday.

Even though music comes from the musician, not the instrument, losing that instrument can be devastating.

On Connick's new show, the Central High School band came back from that devastation thanks to an extremely generous surprise. It was exciting and emotional enough on national television, but the moments after the segment ended were also pretty special.

"My family, we grabbed my two baby sisters, stuffed my brother literally in the SUV trunk and we got out of my neighborhood and we went to my aunt's," said Jonah Amason, a sophomore at Central High. 
Amason's story is familiar in Central as the community was one of the hardest hit areas during the August flooding.

Like many of Jonah's bandmates, he did not have a whole lot of time to grab anything before the water was to the roof of his home. That meant a lot of the kids lost their instruments right as school was starting. Music coordinator James Henderson reached out to a familiar face for help.

"I put a message onto Facebook to Harry," Henderson said. "I explained to him what the situation was and before you know it, he liked it and I thought 'Oh my goodness. I just got a like from Harry Connick Jr.'"

Harry didn't just like it. He took action and the nation got to see that on his new show Wednesday as he announced that the company Jupiter Band Instruments was donating more than $60,000 worth of brand new instruments for the school's music program.

"I was kind of nervous when we were waiting for the cameras to roll, but when I saw the instruments, I was so happy," said freshman Isabelle Maloy.

Even before the flood, the students were playing on seasoned instruments. So they were extremely grateful for the gifts that will allow them to do what they love once again.

"I rigged a bari sax with paper clips, zip ties, ponytails - that was fun - and lots of duct tape," explained Steven Courtney. "You don't, can't even imagine the amount of duct tape I used, and to get a brand new bari sax I know just how much it really means, and I'm excited to play some music with it."

"It took me a minute to really realize what was going on, and then I realized they were shiny and new and I was like what?" said junior Mackenzie Whittington.

"Whether they lost their belongings or whether they were helping people around the community, they needed this. They really needed this," Henderson said.

While the band had already come together before this incredible surprise, Jonah said this donation will help him and his friends lift up their community even more at the next halftime show.

"Today meant, to me, recollection, building ourselves back up, and then coming together as a band to focus on the positive. Knowing that no matter what happens, perseverance, you know, that lies in the bottom of all of our hearts," Jonah said.

Connick recently hosted the Louisiana Rising benefit concert in Baton Rouge. His show, "Harry," airs at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday on WAFB. In Wednesday's episode, Connick announced he would auction off a hat signed by him and his guest for the day, Renee Zellweger, and the proceeds would be donated to flood relief.

He also pushed his audience to donate online to the Baton Rouge chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.