A New Orleans marching band program devised to help keep kids on the right course will soon be taking them to the streets for one the most important national events to which marching bands aspire. The Roots of Music is one of a handful of groups invited to participate in this year’s Rose Parade, the high-profile extravaganza held in Pasadena, Calif., each January in conjunction with the Rose Bowl.
“For a marching band, it’s the equivalent of winning a Grammy,” says Roots of Music program director Elexa Ruth.
The group operates on a lean budget, holding classes in the halls and chambers of the state museum’s Cabildo property and relying heavily on volunteers and funders who believe in its mission. Now, the Roots of Music is out to raise $375,000 by October to fund travel expenses for the students making the trip to the Rose Parade.
Started in 2008, the nonprofit is the brainchild of Derrick Tabb, a longtime member of the legendary Rebirth Brass Band. Along with co-founder Allison Reinhardt, he recruited professional musicians and music instructors to lead intensive lessons for students in their middle school years and younger, a group for whom other extracurricular activities can be hard to find. Students learn their instruments along with the discipline, mutual respect and commitment that playing together in a marching band requires.
The Roots of Music marching band unit, the Marching Crusaders, has participated in many Carnival parades at home in New Orleans. But the invitation to the Rose Parade is something else altogether. Rose Parade officials estimate that some 39 million Americans watched the 2012 event on TV. More than 700,000 people line the route each year to see the festivities in person.
“The benefit will really be two-fold,” says Ruth. “For the kids it will be a great development experience, showing them that their music can take them places. They’ll get to meet other bands, people from other countries. For the program, this is an opportunity to take it to the next level and reel together everything we’ve been working on so far.”
To contribute to the Roots of Music fundraising effort, visit TheRootsOfMusic.com.