NEW ORLEANS -- Marching in The Tournament of Roses Parade is a monumental step for the Roots of Music group. It’s national recognition for a four-year-old program founded on a simple premise.
"When a child doesn't have anything to do after school, he usually finds himself in trouble or herself in trouble, and this program basically keeps them out of trouble,” said Markell Montgomery.
“Keeps them off the streets to learn music, and they get free tutoring and everything,” said Diji Diallo.
Rebirth Brass Band member Derrick Tabb started the program to give at-risk 9- to 14-year-olds an opportunity to be in a band.
He's reminded why far too often.
“I was picking up my nephew from school and I heard a hail of gunshots and I thought about these kids here. They don't have to worry about that. I'm proud of that part of the program, that I know they're safe. They’re not out on the streets,” Tabb said. “They're here with me.”
Before a note is played there is homework, and every student must maintain a 2.5 GPA. And when Tabb's imposing figure enters the room, 100 chatty kids grow eerily silent. He teaches discipline, honor and getting along with kids from different neighborhoods.
Is it working? Well, there are 600 kids on a waiting list.
“And when you start putting them in certain situations and they start to feel like they're special, they start achieving more and they start to want to do more,” Tabb said.
And they want to do more. But home in The Cabildo, the limit is 140 kids. They need a large, permanent home to get more kids into the program.
“What most of the city is failing to do with our kids,” said Lawrence Rawlins. “We can help. We can actually help.”
Before reality is the dream and the opportunity.
“Well, I'm going to become a great musician and I'm going to get a whole bunch of gigs and I'm also going to become an artist and a book writer,” Diallo said.
How do you argue with that?