Drumsticks in hand, Derrick Tabb has found a way to transform New Orleans children from troublemakers to tuba players.
Tabb, wearing a gold chain and a baseball cap, doesn't look the part of a typical band teacher. But every weekday evening in the French Quarter, he beats out the rhythm on his music stand as students play their chosen instruments. In doing so, he gives them an alternative to New Orleans' rough streets.
"I tell everyone I'm competing with the drug dealers," said Tabb, 34. His program, The Roots of Music, offers free tutoring, instruments and music education to more than 100 students.
Reformed class clown Terrence Knockum credits Tabb with changing his life. The 15-year-old tuba player joined the band eight months ago, when he was failing in school and "heading up the wrong road," said Tabb. Today, Knockum is the band captain. He hopes to make music his career and teach it himself one day.
"Before, I was getting in trouble," Knockum said. "Now … when I come here, I'm learning how to play the horn, be disciplined and, you know, just work hard."
Tabb can relate. During a rebellious phase in junior high, his band teacher became his mentor and helped him get back on track.
"He saved my life," recalled Tabb, a professional drummer with the Rebirth Brass Band, one of the city's most popular acts.
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Thank you, Mr. Tabb.