Watch: Raphael Saadiq with the Roots of Music


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For every view of this video at, American Express will donate $1 to the Roots of Music, the after-school youth music program for kids from low-income families, founded in 2007 by Rebirth Brass Band snare drummer Derrick Tabb and Allison Reinhardt.

American Express will donate up to $50,000 to the group — the video already been shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook since its debut on Dec. 30, 2010. You can watch the video through Jan. 28.

In the video, musician Raphael Saadiq takes a small tour through New Orleans before his Voodoo Experience set. He spends time with Tabb and the Roots of Music marching band, from their rehearsal space to their practice spot in Jackson Square. The organization accepts students ages 9 to 14 and offers free after-school music education, led by a stellar lineup of New Orleans musicians and bandleaders, and tutoring, with meals, transportation and uniforms at no cost.

Read Gambit's feature on the organization here. In early 2010, Roots of Music faced a dire financial situation and a growing waiting list — more than 500 kids in need want to get into the program. Roots of Music hosted a series of fundraisers in 2010 to stay afloat, but it needs all the help it can get. At the program's heart, Reinhardt said, is crime prevention. Hit the jump for an excerpt from the story.

Ronaldo Trepagnier is a father of four. Fifth-grader Renard, sixth-grader Renalda and seventh-grader Renell are students at Andrew H. Wilson Charter School. They enrolled in Roots of Music six months ago after seeing the band perform at last year's parades.

"The influence this program had on the kids ... they were talking about what colleges they're going to already," he says. "Talking how this band will get them a scholarship. That's big."

Trepagnier works 14-to-15-hour days driving concrete trucks for Lafarge Concrete but visits the program at least once or twice a week. "I was blown to see how all these kids from different walks of life got along," he says. "They're disciplined, they were listening."

The students are not only different age groups — young teens and younger middle-schoolers sit side by side — but the schools and neighborhoods they represent span the entire city. At Roots of Music, there is no turf. Students work together as members of the same horn section or as drummers on the same drumline and are held liable for each other's actions. Discipline is swift; Tabb punishes one talkative trombone player by making all the trombonists stand for the remainder of the rehearsal. Sometimes he'll make them do pushups.

"We represent every single terrible street in New Orleans, and our kids know it," Reinhardt says. "They're scared to death outside their front doors. But when they come in, they leave their schoolbags, their belongings, everywhere — unattended. They're safe. And they feel safe. And they feel safe with each other."

At the heart of the program is crime prevention. Ninety percent of the students are from single-parent homes, and for a majority, the father is the absent parent. "Either he's dead or missing in action — on the streets, or he's locked up in jail," Reinhardt says. "Our kids are going through hard times. They've been dealt a rough hand. One hundred percent of our children are Katrina survivors. Here in the water, stuck, until someone came and rescued them. And the way they tell the stories — so nonchalant, almost in a desensitized way. Everybody has that story, for them."

Trepagnier's family lives in the Calliope housing project, where he's seen young victims of violent crime. "It's getting to people. This city is crazy with crime," he says. "If you see somebody have 100-something kids from all these areas, where all that's going on ... it's working."

With a waiting list approaching more than 400 at-risk youths, Reinhardt says the program can't spend any less time waiting to enroll them. "The longer they wait, the older they get," she says.


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