Former New Orleans musician composes new life in West Virginia
By Patricia Sizemore
MEDOW BRIDGE, W.Va. – After Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the Gulf Coast in 2005, jazz musician Travis Riddle made his way back home to West Virginia with his family.
Riddle lived out of state for about 20 years before returning to his West Virginia origins. He grew up in southern West Virginia, where he was inspired by a 1986 broadcast at the Culture Center of jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain playing at the Charleston Jazz Festival.
His love of jazz led him to play at different venues in California, including performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra. During his performances, he met legends in the entertainment field such as Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Hope. While in California, he also attended California State University and received a master’s degree in music education.
After living in California for about five years, Riddle moved to New Orleans, where he played music with greats such as Pete Fountain, Joe Williams, Oliver Felix and members of the Dukes of Dixieland. While living in Louisiana, he received a Ph.D. in music education from the Union Institute & University.
With the threat of Hurricane Katrina, he and his wife, Wendy, evacuated with their children, Hannah, Bobby and Mary. Upon returning to Louisiana after the hurricane, they found their home destroyed and themselves without much money.
Riddle and his family then returned to his native state – West Virginia. It was during his stop at a Wal-Mart that someone noticed his license plate and left him a note welcoming him to the state along with $40. This was to be the first of many generous acts from the residents of West Virginia. Other acts include assistance with their hotel bill and furniture for their new home.
“We’re glad to be back,” Riddle says. “My wife grew up in New Orleans, but loves it here. There’s a laid-back, gentle atmosphere and attitude here. I’m hoping that my mother-in law will decide to move to West Virginia after she retires.”
When he started his current position as a music teacher at Meadow Bridge Junior-Senior High, the band had only four members. The school band had gone through many music teachers in the past 20 years. Riddle’s passion for music has spread to other students. Today, the number of band members has increased to more than 50.
Riddle’s wife started medical school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) in Lewisburg Aug. 4. WVSOM has been ranked by the U.S. News & World Report as a Top Medical School in the nation.
“I don’t think people are aware of how truly beautiful West Virginia is,” Riddle says. “My fondest memories of growing up are of the fall season, family-night ball games and Indian summers.”
Some of his favorite places include the New River Gorge and Greenbrier River.
Along with his New Orleans style jazz group, Travis Riddle and the Bourbon Street Sound, he played at the Crossroads Mall in July 2008 to benefit the Red Cross, since they were so helpful to him and his family.
Guests can hear the vibrant sounds of Travis Riddle and the Bourbon Street Sound every Friday and Saturday night at the Brier Inn Club in Lewisburg.