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The Whole Gritty City - New Orleans marching band film's video poster

3 New Orleans marching bands prepare for Mardi Gras. 3 band directors wage a battle for their students’ lives and souls. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on April 12, 2011.

3 New Orleans marching bands prepare for Mardi Gras. 3 band directors wage a battle for their students’ lives and souls.

About this project

The Whole Gritty City is a documentary feature film that plunges viewers into the world of New Orleans high school marching bands. We are so grateful that our Kickstarter campaign has already surpassed the goal we had set. That means we are able to work on completing a rough cut of the film now. Your continued support via Kickstarter in the days that remain will make the crucial difference in our continuing right through to a final edit. That will include incorporating musical elements composed by Rebirth Band musician Derrick Tabb.

Our plan is to then finish post production and release the film at the end of 2011 or the start of 2012. We plan to launch the film at festivals, show it in theaters around the country (with a New Orleans premier), and screen it on PBS or national cable.

To get a taste of it please check out the trailer! If you like it please embed it, link to it, share it with your friends.


“Once that band gives you that down beat…just for that brief two or three minutes you forget every problem you had. You have no cares in the world...Yeah it must be nice to live like that with no cares in the world” – Wilbert Rawlins Jr.

For those living in a city traumatized by a flood, besieged by a daily toll of street violence, there’s a deep longing to have “no cares in the world”.

But New Orleans is also the birthplace of jazz: a community that draws on a deeply rooted musical culture to lift and sustain itself. The city’s marching bands are at the center of the Mardi Gras parades. They’re crucial links passing a musical legacy to a new generation. And for thousands of kids they’re lifelines.

The Whole Gritty City begins in post-Katrina New Orleans a few months before the Mardi Gras celebration. The directors of three marching bands are pushing their young musicians to their limits to prepare to march in the two weeks of parades. They work with urgency and passion. They’re passing on to their students a legacy that once saved their own lives.

The Whole Gritty City tells the story of two public high school bands and “The Roots of Music Marching Crusaders”, a new band for young beginners started by Rebirth Brass Band drummer Derrick Tabb. We follow the band directors and some of their young musicians through struggles, tragedies and triumphs, with plenty of powerful and passionate music along the way.

This film portrays children growing up in New Orleans through the eyes of marching band directors. These men have walked in their shoes. They see the possibilities in these kids, and know how to help unleash them. The band directors offer them a refuge, a means of self-expression, and a way to aspire and achieve that’s true to the best of who they are, to their community, their history and their culture. They draw these kids into being part of an ongoing cultural legacy that is local and vibrant, yet transcendent: New Orleans’ great gift to the world.

This film shines a light on one African American community, and on the battle between the destructive and the positive forces shaping the fate of a new generation. It invites the viewer to look at these children not with pity, judgment, fear or indifference, but with empathy and admiration.

Check out the pictures below. We’re ready to show our gratitude for your support by giving you color photos of band directors and their young musicians by our cinematographer, award-winning photographer Andre Lambertson. And digging deeper will get you an original commissioned artwork of one of our three marching bands by the New Orleans artist Bruce Davenport Jr., whose marching band pieces are getting shown all over the country, and making him one of the art world’s rising stars.

We launch this Kickstarter campaign on the eve of Mardi Gras. The Roots of Music Marching Crusaders and The O. Perry Walker High School Marching Band have been marching in the parades. Even if you can’t be there to see and hear them, you can help us tell their dramatic, inspiring story.

PS How Kickstarter Works: 
 Your credit card is only charged, if and when, we reach our goal of $20,000. Funding on Kickstarter is "all or nothing" and if we do not reach our fundraising goal by April 11, you don't get charged a dime.

At the end of the fundraising campaign, backers will be contacted by the project's producers to obtain any additional information that may be needed (i.e. shipping address, etc.).

A note on Treme The producers of HBO’s great New Orleans series Treme are no fools. Our cameras have been following the charismatic band director Wilbert Rawlins Jr. and the also charismatic young trumpeter Jaron “Bear” Williams for over two years. Now we’ll watch for their appearances in the second season of Treme – Rawlins playing...a band director – Bear playing...a young trumpeter!

Thank you for considering.

Richard Barber

Producer/Director The Whole Gritty City

Please find out more about the film at our website. On the "contact" page you can sign up on our mailing list:

And on our FaceBook page:

If you still have questions about the film or what we're using the Kickstarter money for feel free to contact us at

Here are links to the photos and artwork you can get when you contribute,

Photos by Andre Lambertson:

Artworks by Bruce Davenport Jr:


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    Everyone who supports us with a contribution of $15 or more will get an on-screen thank you in the film's credits.

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    160 backers

    Newly-added: On-screen thank you + a video download of the film when the DVD is released

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    On-screen thank you + an 8x10 color photo by cinematographer Andre Lambertson

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    On-screen thank you + an 8x10 color photo by cinematographer Andre Lambertson + a DVD

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    On-screen thank you + three different 8x10 color photos by cinematographer Andre Lambertson

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    On-screen thank you + a signed poster + a DVD

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    On-screen thank you + an 8x10 color photo by cinematographer Andre Lambertson + two tickets to a screening*
    (*your choice of premieres in New York, New Orleans or the theater nearest you, plus invitations to any party that follows)

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    An 8x10 color photo by cinematographer Andre Lambertson + two tickets to a screening*(see above) + on-screen credit as a supporter

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    On-screen credit as a supporter + signed original artwork of a marching band by New Orleans artist Bruce Davenport Jr.

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Funding period

- (40 days)