Blessed with Wonderful Music Instructors: Dr. Doreen Ketchens

Doreen Ketchens,

It was a by-chance viewing of Doreen’s busking “House of the Rising Sun” that first caught my attention, and I needed to learn more! While she asserts she typically doesn’t do many interviews, Doreen, aka Lady Louis, was excited to answer my questions about early childhood music education, and I’m glad she did!

Doreen grew up in New Orleans and began playing the clarinet at a young age. It was then that she faced her kindest and toughest instructors.

John Berthelot, courtesy of Doreen Ketchens

Her kindest instructor was John Berthelot at Joseph Craig Elementary School (now Plessy Community School), who introduced her to music in 6th grade and was easy to please as she met her early goals as a musician. Her toughest was Donald Richardson at the now-closed Bell Junior High School. Doreen explains, “He was a no nonsense, hardnosed, insulting, and at times cruel.” At the same time, this teacher instilled within her a toughness and fearlessness that would carry her through to the fame she has today. Richardson is remembered as training some of the inner city students to be the best musicians, educators, and doctors, who understood his desire in education was for their betterment.

Bell Junior High Band with Donald Richardson front row, right, and Doreen Ketchens next to him, courtesy of Doreen Ketchens
Walter Harris, Sr.,

At Kennedy Senior High School, band director, Walter Harris, Sr. taught her to hone her talents. He held both qualities of Richardson and Berthelot. Doreen says Harris pulled her out of her cockiness developed in her early teens and developed within her respect for self and others and a love of teaching.

“My favorite memories of [Dr. Harris] was watching him sit one-on-one with a young person not only teaching them how to play but showing them kindness and patience.”

Freddy Blue Goodrich, Twitter
New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Facebook

School gave Doreen opportunities to participate at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and to see the precursor of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (New Orleans Symphony Orchestra) with principal flautist, Richard Harrison. He taught, by simply performing, that she could be a successful symphony musician, regardless of her race. Along with a collection of music teachers came a fight to be successful. There were times when Doreen was first chair and then just as quickly removed. She understood the definition of audition, and she was serious about being a success.

Stanley Weinstein, courtesy of Doreen Ketchens

In fact, she pursued private lessons, in addition to those taught in school, with Stanley Weinstein, a musician who is nationally known for his prowess in non-profit organizations and his musicality in symphony orchestras. Weinstein has played principal clarinet with the Mobile Symphony and the New Orleans Symphony. He is also credited with performing Debussy’s Premiére Rhapsodie under conductor, Phillip Entremont and performing the Copland Clarinet Concerto under conductor, Aaron Copland.

Dr. Lawrence Ketchens II, courtesy of Doreen Ketchens

In college, she joined Lawrence Ketchens’ New Orleans Jazz Band with future husband, Dr. Lawrence H Ketchens, II. He introduced her to jazz, and because of him, she has developed the perfect blend of jazz and classical. Her music education could have stopped had she not met Dr. Lawrence Ketchens, but fortunately for her fans, it did not. Of course, becoming her husband was an added blessing.

Her biggest inspiration aside from her early childhood music teachers and her husband is Louis Armstrong. She has been compared to the late musician due to her personality and the way she holds her instrument.

Doreen performs in front of Rouses on Royal Street in New Orleans every weekend from 10:30am to 2:30pm Friday through Monday. She is also available for performances, private lessons, and classes.

You can support Doreen by following her on Facebook, Twitter (X), and Instagram. Watch her performances on Youtube, and purchase her one of her many albums on her website.

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