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Employee Spotlight: The Pythian’s Richard Fergunson

By Green Coast on 1 May 2018

Richard Fergunson
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Richard Fergunson

Music is his trusted friend and companion. Richard Fergunson, The Pythian’s head of maintenance and engineering, has lived in a few places—Cuba, Canada and now New Orleans—with a wide range of experiences, but music has been a constant force, connecting him to places and people.

Growing up in Cuba, his kinship with music began when he first began playing the trumpet. Eventually, this would lead to Fergunson earning a master degree in music and education from Cuba’s National School of the Arts, and he worked as a professor before moving to Canada.

Arriving in New Orleans in 2016, Fergunson was working as a contract carpenter in The Pythian during its renovation when he discovered an old photograph from the early 1920s. The photo showed an interracial crowd in The Pythian’s rooftop jazz garden, which had featured many of New Orleans legendary musicians such as Manuel Perez and his orchestra. At first surprised by the racial makeup of the audience during a time of segregation and Jim Crow laws, it didn’t take long for Fergunson to realize what was the uniting force.

“Here music brought everyone together,” Fergunson says. “All of the races.”

Feeling The Pythian’s musical gravitational pull, Fergunson, who plays 12 instruments, became the head of maintenance and engineering in early 2017. He often works 10-hour days and the job requires he knows, as he puts it, “a little bit about everything.”

Fergunson tries to anticipate and remedy problems before they happen, and if he can’t do that, he immediately addresses any issue be it a broken pipe, a stuck door, or graffiti. He is constantly looking out for everyone who lives or works in The Pythian, because he views his position as more than a job.

“I do consider it my building, so I take it very personally,” Fergunson says.

As much as music has influenced his life, it wasn’t the impetus behind his decision to move to New Orleans. It was his father, whom Fergunson met for the first time when he visited the city, and not surprisingly, the two men found they shared a love of music. It has helped establish and strengthen their bond, and Fergunson is grateful for any opportunity to play music with his father, a conga player.

“He’s really committed, and it makes me feel alive,” he says. “He has such a Cuban vibe, and he pushes it to everyone. When I play with him, I feel that and think to myself,‘I come from that.’”

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