The Little Band That Could

Purple is the color of royalty, and in New Orleans the St. Augustine High School marching band, the Purple Knights, are the kings of Mardi Gras.

A year and a half after Katrina flooded New Orleans and scattered its residents, the members of the Purple Knights have reunited to march together and trumpet their return. It's a point of pride for the band members and for the residents of New Orleans.

With donated equipment and shiny new uniforms, the band will march up to 70 miles in as many as 10 parades this Mardi Gras season.

"When you hear the sounds of the trumpet and see the precision of the marchers, this is a group of young men who are disciplined and talented and they represent the best of New Orleans," said Sandy Shilstone of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp.

They also represent the best hope of New Orleans' return as a thriving, cultural city.

Leading the way is 17-year-old senior drum major Montreal Givens. He is a straight-A student, and as dedicated to his alma mater as anyone you will ever meet.

"I just love my school," Givens said.

Givens felt so motivated to return to New Orleans that he came back on his own after his family was evacuated to Houston. This fall, Givens moved into a FEMA trailer by himself, so he could carry on a tradition that is more than half a century old.

The St. Augustine band was the first to break the Mardi Gras color barrier, marching in an otherwise all-white parade. Band members, proud of their legacy, see their participation in the band as a point of civic and personal pride.

"I marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, and before we marched for the pope," Givens told "Good Morning America." "We marched for the president, marched for a lot of important people."

"We are training these kids to be well-rounded musicians and well-rounded people," said 29-year-old Virgil Tiller, the St. Augustine marching band director, who returned to New Orleans this summer to carry on the band's legacy.

Tiller worked over the summer and fall to rebuild a band whose members were scattered to the four winds. For Tiller, it's a point of pride.

"I graduated from this school, and I was a drum major here. Everything I learned at St. Augustine made me the man that I am today," he said.

Tiller is now a much-needed role model for the children of New Orleans.

"I just try to let them know that there are other things going on besides the situation of the storm and things that are going on with their family. I let this be an outlet for them. I think it helps them out a lot," Tiller said.

This weekend, the St. Augustine marching band was invited to march in the Krewe of Endymion Parade, one of the biggest parades of the Mardi Gras season. At the end of the route, as darkness fell, the band reached the Superdome.

What was once a refuge of last resort after Katrina, the Superdome has been transformed into a joyful place, a celebration for a city that is struggling to come back to life.

And for Tiller, each step taken by the St. Augustine band brings New Orleans closer to returning.

"With every parade, no matter how long it is, I feel like we are collectively doing something to bring back New Orleans," he said.