Wynton Marsalis To Host The Broadcast Premiere Of “48 Hours Presents: The Whole Gritty City”

CBS News Cultural Correspondent and jazz legend Wynton Marsalis will host the premiere of 48 HOURS PRESENTS: “The Whole Gritty City,” a poignant, feature-length documentary about the power of music and how it can transform – and even save – young lives to be broadcast Feb. 15, 2014 (9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

The raw, un-narrated film goes behind the scenes with three dedicated New Orleans marching band directors. Their goal is to prepare students to march in Mardi Gras parades, but the real lesson they teach is survival in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the country.
“New Orleans buries too many of its young,” says Marsalis, who was born and raised there. “This is their refuge, the band room. It’s their safe haven from the lures and dangers of the streets and the tyranny of low expectations.”

The film by Richard Barber, a 48 HOURS editor-producer, and Andre Lambertson, a cinematographer and photojournalist, follows the lives of five band students. All have lost someone close to them to violence, yet each finds purpose, solace and joy in the marching band.

Jaron “Bear” Williams, 11, is one of them. He uses a video camera to record his walk to school. “This is the street I don’t like, ‘cause it has guns,” he says to the camera. Not far away his 19-year-old brother was shot to death. “I cried the whole day,” he says. “I couldn’t get him out of my head.”
After his brother’s death, Bear joins the Roots of Music marching band and learns to play trumpet. He earns his way into his first parade. The experience is life changing. “I feel like I’m the best thing in the world and I can’t be stopped,” he says.

“I have the power of the music,” says Wilbert Rawlins, Jr., one of the band directors featured in the documentary. “I don’t care if you just had something very tragic that happened to you in your life. Once that band gives you that downbeat, and that music is right, and it’s powerful,” says Rawlins. “Just for that brief two or three minutes you forget everything, every problem you had. You have no cares in the world. Yeah, it must be nice to actually live like that, with no cares in the world.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune called The Whole Gritty City “an impassioned look at the often unsung heroes of Mardi Gras parades…both a celebratory film…and a very emotional one.”
Author and screenwriter David Simon writes “Gritty City is glorious. Alternately heartbreaking and joyous, one instant to the next.”

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  1. I taught band in a first ring suburb of Buffalo, NY. I had the honor to work for an African American principal who taught us about the life he experienced in the city. His mantra was “connect!” His life was like that which was depicted in the program. I tried to use that experience in my everyday teaching. It was a frustrating experience, mostly because I couldn’t then, and still can’t, even imagine the lives of kids like those in the program. It was a world away from my life experience in music. It was late in my career, but it was, and continues to be, the most enriching experience of my professional life.

    Dan on Feb 17th, 2014 at 7:22pm

  2. I had been looking for an apartment in NOLA for a few hours yesterday. I had no idea when I turned by TV on “by accident” I saw a familiar WWL Ch4 at the bottom of the screen with a NOLA street. I realized that it was fate that as an educator and NOLA native 2 generations both sides of the family, I was so sorry that this is still happening after Katrina. The students and teachers have a long way to go…It gave me hope to see the tenacity and motivation for perfection in their otherwise imperfect lives on the streets. I know those streets well, could be my neighbors come July! I’ll be looking out for ya you know. I care. There could be more music programs and art and sports programs…they gotta want it enough to never give up. Best to ya. See you next Mardi Gras on St. Charles/Nampoleon K? Stray strong, heads up to the sky…You can be different a new example of what NOLA can be now and in the future. Peace. Thanks to the director and Mr. Marsalis for bringing this wide open to the people! Ya did good….as my grandma used to say.

    Laura Campagna on Feb 16th, 2014 at 12:15pm

  3. The film is inspiring and an insight into the love and energy of dedicated teachers who touch the lives of young people.

    Phyllis doherty on Feb 15th, 2014 at 10:53pm

  4. i don’t know how the kids are going to succeed. the teacher himself speaks ghetto and does not sound educated at all. why do black men always have long nails? it looks disgusting!

    ltjrnslzr on Feb 15th, 2014 at 9:50pm