To Beat The Band
“That’s why Dinerral Shavers defied all the people who told him it was impossible to start a new marching band from scratch at Rabouin High School when it reopened after Katrina. That’s why Derrick Tabb plays gigs with Rebirth until 3 a.m., then gets up at 6 to go to meetings for The Roots of Music, then teaches the kids every afternoon. That’s why Wilbert Rawlins, Jr. is on the job or on call at all times, why he takes money out of his own teacher’s salary if he has to, to make sure his students get everything that’s in his power to give them, be it discipline, inspiration, a clean shirt, guiding them through a challenging arpeggio, or advice about life.”
That’s Richard Barber explaining in an interview that marching band directors in New Orleans believe they’re doing more than teaching music to their students. “You see these directors — often the most important adults in their students’ lives — passing on a legacy that had literally saved their own lives when they were kids.” Barber is a television producer and director in New York. His immersive documentary The Whole Gritty City explores the influence of three marching band directors in post-Katrina New Orleans as they prepare their kids to perform in the annual Mardi Gras parades. “As close to cinema verité as network television ever gets,” wrote reviewer Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times. “Sensitive, intelligent, and inspirational,” said National Public Radio critic David Bianculli. The documentary received a 2015 Christopher Award, an honor presented each year to writers, producers, directors, authors, and illustrators whose work “affi the highest values of the human spirit.”
As a Hampshire student, Barber taught himself to edit film, he says, “on the midnight-to-dawn shift on a Moviola in a little room behind the East Lecture Hall.” During a long career working primarily for CBS, he’s won numerous industry awards, among them an Emmy for producing the television documentary 9/11.