Hot 8 Brings New Orleans to Onondaga

New Orleans’ Own Hot 8 Brass Band doesn’t need a set list. It doesn’t need a planned script. And it doesn’t need a rehearsed program.

That’s just the way the band likes it.

“That’s what unique about us – we don’t plan our set lists ahead of time. When we get to a venue, we feel and breathe the vibe of it,” says band leader Bennie Pete. “We feel and breathe the vibe of the people. It’s all how about how they’re feeling and how we’re feeling. And we play off that.”

The Hot 8 marched its way to Storer Auditorium at Onondaga Community College on Thursday, March 25. Band members kicked off the night with a meet and greet, complete with a Q&A session and demonstration, at 4 p.m. They then took to the stage and performed at 7 p.m.

What did audiences get? A mix of funk, jazz, big band, hip hop, rhythm, and blues with a big kick of Louisiana culture.

“Our music reaches everyone. Young and old people alike can enjoy our shows,” Pete says. “We play classics for the older crowd as well was more contemporary music for the young ones.”

The band’s roots run thick in the tradition of friends, family and fun. Some members of the Hot 8 grew up playing together, forming the group in the early 90s to keep their music alive after high school.  Since then, the band has earned a reputation for being one of the most dynamic and animated groups coming out of Louisiana.

At the core of the band’s foundation is the New Orleans street parade culture. They’re known for playing all day in the hot streets of Louisiana and then hopping to clubs to jam throughout the night. 

“We’ve been exposed to street music since an early age. We could hear it coming on down while at the grocery store or in our own neighborhood. It’s second nature to us,” Pete says. “We want to bring that sort of energy and intensity to venues outside of Louisiana.”

The band plays in the traditional Second Line street parades hosted in New Orleans. It’s played in a number of national and international venues. And it’s brought music to evacuee shelters, temporary trailer parks and other communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

“Our goal is to bring the experience of New Orleans wherever we go, to keep it in people’s minds and prayers,” Pete says. “Playing at those evacuation shelters showed us how valuable and powerful music can be. It helps people do away with their sorrows, to have fun and let go.”

The Hot 8 became known nationwide shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. It’s been featured on CNN, Nightline and in the New York Times. Members also made an appearance in Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.”

They’re dedicated to bringing music to all New Orleans natives through programs including the Finding Our Folk Tour and Save Our Brass project. The band’s philosophy toward social outreach is the same as when it takes to the stage: bring people happiness.

“Our performances are about giving people joy to bring home that they may need themselves,” Pete says. “We talk and mingle with the audience – try to get them out of their seats. We want to get people moving, get people dancing.”

The Hot 8 Brass Band has grown and evolved throughout the years. Its current lineup includes:
• Bennie Pete – sousaphone
• Corey Peyton – trombone
• Gregory Veals – trombone
• John Gilbert – saxophone
• Julian Gosin – trumpet
• Raymond Williams – trumpet
• Samuel Cyrus – snare drum
• Terrence Andrews – bass drum
• Terrell Batiste – trumpet

For more information on the band’s performance, visit the Arts Across Campus page at

This event is made possible with funds from New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, a state agency and the Cultural Resources Council, a regional arts council.