Thursday, April 21, 2011

Roots of Music needs a new home

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 6:18 PM

UPDATE, May 5, 2011: The program and the museum reached an agreement.

The Roots of Music Marching Band parades in the Krewe of NOMTOC in 2010.
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • The Roots of Music Marching Band parades in the Krewe of NOMTOC in 2010.

The Roots of Music, a free after-school music education program founded by Rebirth Brass Band snare drummer Derrick Tabb and Allison Reinhardt, needs a new home. Reinhardt says the Louisiana State Museum, facing budget cuts, won't be able to afford to house the program at the Cabildo, which has served as the program's rehearsal space for two years. Roots of Music has until June 1 to find a new home.

The program provides music education to children from low-income families from more than 40 schools in Orleans Parish — 86 percent of which are public. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day and during the summer, Roots of Music provides students with instruments, academic tutoring, meals, uniforms, a safe place to rehearse, and transportation — all at no cost. (Read more about the program in Gambit.)

The program's annual budget is roughly $421,000, with a monthly budget at just above $35,000. The program spends $3,500 per child each year, or $13 a day. The program has received donations through the Wisner Fund, the Murphy Foundation, the Maggie George Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, and CNN Heroes, which selected Tabb as one of its "heroes" in 2009 and awarded the program $25,000.

The state has offered use of both the Cabildo and the Old U.S. Mint buildings for the last two years, and in that time, the program has "graduated" 75 students, meaning all of its graduates are enrolled in high school. Another 40 students are set to graduate this year, and 132 children total are currently enrolled. More than 500 students are on a waiting list.

The lieutenant governor's office provides the program with the use of the Louisiana State Museum, valued at $7,000 a day. When I spoke with Reinhardt last year before Mayor Mitch Landrieu took the mayoral office, she didn't imagine the incoming Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne kicking the program out of the space. "I don't think they will," she said. "Can you imagine, the only person in the world, 'I just put the only free music education program out the door, kicked them on the street'?"

Reinhardt says she has reached out to Landrieu, Dardenne, and Gov. Bobby Jindal but has yet to hear back. She also has approached Tulane University and CNN. If all else fails, Reinhardt says she's not ruling out letting students practice on the steps of City Hall. Museum reps haven't provided Gambit a comment.

From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. May 20, Roots of Music is set to host the Marching to New Orleans gala, featuring local musicians, celebrity chefs, silent and live auctions, and performances by the Roots of Music band. Tickets are $150 general admission, and $200 for patron party guests. Get tickets here.

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