The Rapidian

Marching band documentary screening to support students in Grand Rapids

Kent County Commissioners are working to raise awareness of the music programs at Grand Rapids Pubic Schools by raising money for the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation.
Student practicing in documentary, The Whole Gritty City

Student practicing in documentary, The Whole Gritty City /Courtesy of The Whole Gritty City

Underwriting support from:
The Whole Gritty City

The Whole Gritty City /Courtesy of The Whole Gritty City

The Whole Gritty City, a 90-minute documentary that plunges viewers into the world of three New Orleans school marching bands, while be shown at the Wealthy Theatre on Wednesday, February 24, 2016.

The film follows kids growing up in America's most musical city- and one of its most dangerous- as their band directors get them ready to perform in the Mardi Gras parades and teach them to succeed and to survive. Navigating the urban minefield through moments of setback, loss, discovery and triumph, these children and their adult leaders reveal the power and resilience of a culture.

The film features three marching bands in the years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city: the O. Perry Walker and L.E. Rabouin high school bands and The Roots of Music, a new band for middle school-age children. These young beginners in Roots are put through their paces by the program's founder Derrick Tabb, drummer for the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band.

As Mardi Gras approaches and the young musicians progress, the film focuses on a few of these kids. Partly through video they create with portable cameras, we discover their passions and quirks, their personal struggles and tragedies. We come to see the powerful positive role being in the band plays in their lives. Eleven-year-old Bear, determined to master the trumpet, lives in the shadow of an older brother murdered at age 19. Eighteen-year-old drum major Skully shouts out to loved ones he's lost to violence, including the band director who was a father figure. Twelve-year-old Jazz aspires to be a musician like her father, even as her mother struggles to provide for the family.

Along with their bandmates, these kids enter into the rigors and glory of marching in Mardi Gras parades in front of thousands of cheering spectators. The film culminates in a different kind of musical performance: a moving funeral tribute to a young man who was one of their own, by band members from across the city.

This New Orleans marching band story is a unique portrayal of an American inner city. It highlights men with an open-eyed, deep commitment to the community they've grown up in and the children in their charge. Viewers who know first hand the African American urban experience will find a celebration of the strength and insight of these men, and the potential and resilience of their students. Others will find a moving, empathetic portrayal of an unfamiliar world, and come to feel a stake in the struggles and triumphs of these children and their mentors.

Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show. Presented by Music Connects Students. Proceeds benefit the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation.

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