Through drumline, members of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City are learning about music and life.
The Blue Diamond Drumline provides more to Jefferson City and its young drummers than a place to create music.
“All of the children are members of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, as well as students of the Jefferson City School District. At the Boys & Girls Club, we believe the arts play a very important role in a child’s development,” says Stephanie Johnson, chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City. “We strive to give children an opportunity to express themselves through a variety of artistic mediums, whether that is traditional art, such as painting, digital art, vocal art, culinary art, or an opportunity to express themselves through poetry or spoken word.”
The Blue Diamond drumline began in the fall of 2018. Johnson had the opportunity to meet Raymond and Cory Lee, brothers and drumline coaches from St. Louis who had moved to Jefferson City and started a church-based drumline. The Boys & Girls Club was able to bring the coaches on board to pilot the program.
“Initially, we thought this would be an activity that would take place during BGC hours of operations, but more and more club kids wanted to participate and the kids wanted to practice as much as possible,” Johnson says. “Within a couple of months, the drumline became more than just an activity. It was a vibrant program.”
Today, Cory continues to lead the drumline with help from his nephew and assistant coach, Raymond Lee, Jr., a Jefferson City High School junior. Johnson says the dedicated drumline is made of 35 drummers who practice 10 hours a week. “Not only does the drumline give kids a safe space where they can develop talents, learn a new skill, and benefit from the advantages of being a part of a team, but the results of their hard work also show every child on the line that when you put your mind to something and you work hard, you can achieve anything you want in life,” Cory says.
Johnson notes the program’s goal is to teach participants the value of hard work. If they choose to attend college, they can use their skills to apply for music scholarships.
“Members who have a grade below a C in a core subject are required to receive academic tutoring. If they have the skills to receive a college scholarship, we want them to have the grades to get into college as well,” she adds.
Any member of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City can try out to be on the line during one of the quarterly auditions. Member ages range from 8 to 17, allowing older participants to also help mentor and teach the younger ones. “Coaches look for children who are willing to listen, learn, and work hard,” says Johnson.
Program funding is a joint effort.
“The drumline is funded through a grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which allows us to provide enrichment programs in the area of STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and math],” says Johnson. “The community enhances that financial support by providing donations for out-of-town trips.”
Our drumline embodies the spirit of Boys & Girls Club — the idea that every child has the ability to reach their full potential.
In spring 2019, all 35 drumline members competed in a battle of the bands in St. Louis and brought home the honors of first place and “fan favorite.” In the fall of 2019, the top 15 performers were also invited to perform for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America regional conference in Chicago, Illinois.
“In addition to financially supporting the drumline, the community has embraced the group by inviting the kids to perform at multiple events throughout the city — parades, halftime shows of local high school games, as well as Lincoln University and the University of Missouri basketball games,” says Johnson. “At every venue, the drumline receives a well-deserved standing ovation, which makes the kids feel so good about themselves.”
This spring, the line is hoping to head back to the battle of the bands drumline competition. They have also auditioned for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national conference in Orlando, Florida, that will take place in May. Johnson said she’s be looking to the community to help raise travel funds.
“I am so very proud of them, it just warms my heart to see their dedication,” says Johnson. “To me, our drumline embodies the spirit of Boys & Girls Club — the idea that every child has the ability to reach their full potential.”
Publisher’s note: Catch a live performance of the drumline during our CITY’s Best celebration party, March 2. For more info, go to JeffersonCityMag.com/citys-best-event.