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The past few weeks have been chaos for Roots of Music. The program moved down the street from its comfortable space at the Cabildo to a one-room auditorium at the U.S. Mint, and instructors had to get more than 100 students ready for six parades. Add the usual headaches — arranging transportation, feeding 100-plus mouths, tutoring — and a grim reality: If program directors can't scrape together funding within the next few weeks, March looks bleak. In this week's cover story, I followed Roots of Music as its 2010 class prepared for its Mardi Gras debut, and hopefully not its last.

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The free program for at-risk students ages 9 to 14 helps low-income families get their children on the right track. Derrick Tabb (Rebirth Brass Band drummer and CNN Hero) and Allison Reinhardt founded Roots of Music in 2007, and it includes (among other things) free transportation from school (and back home), meals, tutoring (required) and a world-class music education from Tabb and New Orleans musicians like Edward Lee from Soul Rebels Brass Band, as well as Allen Dejan Jr., Shoan Ruffin and Lawrence Rawlins. Oh, and Trombone Shorty and Phil Frazier serve on the board.

Gambit photographer Cheryl Gerber documented the band's three-step parade prep: rehearsal, dress, and the finalemarching and playing in Carnival 2010. (Hit the jump for the photos.)

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