Bands that march in the Rose Parade come from all over the world, but sometimes the longest trips are not in miles. For The Roots of Music Marching Crusaders from New Orleans, the journey is from one state of mind to another, from failing to success.
Founder and director Derrick Tabb has made that journey himself. After losing his grandmother when he was 12, Tabb withdrew into himself. He would not talk about his grief, and became rebellious. His junior high school music teacher, Donald Richardson, stepped in to provide mentoring and direction, and eventually inspired him to start The Roots of Music in 2007, a non-profit organization that pulls student ages 9 through 14 from 40 schools in Orleans Parish.
“The program always needs money because everything is free,” Tabb told Examiner on Sunday. This includes tutoring by students from Tulane University, music instruction and instruments, and a hot meal five days a week. “That’s what I really needed in junior high,” he said. “If there had been five more Mr. Richardsons, he could have saved more kids.” Tabb says that 85 percent of the youngsters in The Roots of Music have brought up their grades in reading and math.
We caught up with Derrick Tabb and co-founder and executive director Allison Reinhardt at the Tournament of Roses Bandfest on Sunday. Bandfest showcases the field shows of the bands that march in the Rose Parade. The youngsters in the band are survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and have seen the music programs in elementary and junior high schools cut.
While most of the high schools restarted their music programs after Katrina, “only five of 45 elementary schools offer music,” Allison Reinhardt said. “One of our hopes is to access college scholarships for these kids. That’s where Berklee comes into play.” Berklee City Music Network, an education program started by Berklee College of Music, offers summer music scholarships to deserving students, with the opportunity to earn a four-year scholarship as well.
“My kids will tell you where they are going to college—Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth,” Reinhardt said. University students come from all over come to volunteer at The Roots of Music and include Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Stanford and Berkeley.
Captions on the photos tell more about The Roots of Music.
Recalling how Richardson helped to turn his life around, Derrick Tabb started a neighborhood marching band for 19 students. The following week, 42 showed up, then 65, the more than 100 and the program took off. Tabb said he decided to do three things differently from Richardson in an effort to reach kids that one person couldn’t.
“I wanted free tutoring, and to do homework right after school,” he said. “Get kids closer to their age, but in college to inspire the kids.” Transportation is the second thing on his list. “I hated that I didn’t have transportation from school to home.” Meals are number three. “I thought it was crazy to eat lunch at 11 a.m., school was out at 3,” he said. After school was band practice, which meant he was not getting dinner until 7 or 8 p.m.
The program not only teaches students how to read music, hold their instruments, and play; it teaches morals, values, respect and life skills. He has formed a committee with the leaders in the group that will teach them how about business meetings, and he hopes that eventually the students will run the program.
Bringing 140 marchers and several chaperones and staff to Pasadena for the Rose Parade requires a tremendous amount of money. The Roots of Music put on a Mardi Gras in June for Tournament of Roses President Sally Bixby’s visit, and raised $64,000. Other fundraisers brought in money, and one donor is paying for the group to go to Universal Studios, but funds are still needed. In 2009, Tabb was one of 10 CNN Heroes, and from that publicity, The Roots of Music received many used instruments, “but no money,” Reinhardt said. The instruments needed repair, which is costly. Louisiana’s Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne helped to get new uniforms for the trip.
Funds are still needed to cover expenses and keep the program going. Readers can donate on The Roots of Music website or purchase items that help to support the program. Volunteering time and booking the band are also ways readers can contribute.
The theme of the 124th Rose Parade and 99th Rose Bowl Game is “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” The Tournament of Roses is a celebration that lasts several weeks in the fall and winter, with the high points being the Rose Parade presented by Honda and the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Keep following your Tournament of Roses Examiner for the latest news and for upcoming announcements.
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