Prudential Financial Inc. has agreed to spend a total of $500,000 to help save a major New Orleans musical group.[@@]

Prudential, Newark, N.J., will be financing efforts by Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center to set up a “New Orleans North” program that will help the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Inc. develop new jazz works in Newark in 2006 and 2007 and enable the orchestra to embark on its first national tour.

Prudential is contributed $300,000 to sponsor the tour and $200,000 to help set up the New Orleans North program at the NJPAC.

NJPAC officials asked Prudential to support the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra after learning that Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita had threatened to force the cancellation of the orchestra’s first national tour.

“As the nation and the world look to rebuilding New Orleans, preserving the richness of the culture is tantamount,” Gabriella Morris, president of a foundation affiliated with Prudential, says in a statement. “The NOJO represents the quality of the arts for which New Orleans is famous, and we are honored to play a role in helping to preserve the culture that is unique to New Orleans.”