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Young Drummers Preparing for Educational Trip

youmay_8By Lisa Davis-Burnett

The Generation New Status Band, led by Youmay Dormoy, is getting ready to try some new beats. "They may be the best drum band on the island, but that is not a reason to be satisfied," Dormoy said, "We don't want to stay in one place." The group will be travelling to learn how a university band works in April. "This is not a fun trip," stressed the tireless director, "They will have to elevate their game."

Nineteen youths will make the trip and they are hoping for some donations or sponsorship from the business community. Four of the young musicians stopped by the offices of The Daily Herald on Monday of this week to talk about their preparations and share their excitement.

Generation New Status is well known across the island. The band performs several times a week, at Maho, the Blue Mall and Front Street. The colourful drummers are a major presence in every parade, opening ceremony and festival. They are often seen at USM's graduation ceremonies, and they even perform at funerals of prominent citizens.

Donning various bright costumes keeps the visual interest engaged, but there is no need to worry about anyone missing this band. They are large and in charge, loud and proud. At least that is how they see themselves when they are on their own turf. Visiting the United States will likely put some of that into a new perspective.

"We will be visiting Howard University in Washington D.C.," said Randymar De Suza, 13. "The band is called the Showtime Band. They play for halftime shows in a football matches; they are more like a marching band, like in 'Drumline.' We are doing a weeklong workshop with them." De Suza is in HAVO at MPC and says he enjoys the music's effect on his body and his mood, "It actually makes you happy when you play," he told WEEKender. "We play different kinds of music, soca, gospel, marching."

"I want them to see what it takes, all the work that goes into a performance. It's a whole different world and they need to understand that. The discipline. They will have to exercise to build stamina. The final performance will be graded. When they see the camp, how they store their instruments, they are very precise. These guys are always losing their drumsticks, and at the end of practice they just drop their instruments and go. So I am hoping they develop some of that discipline. I don't want to emulate what [the US band] is doing, I want to keep it our style, you know, Caribbean style, but I want them to take on the disciple and the professional attitude."

To that point, 14 year old Leatton Douglas spoke up, saying that the trip will help "make me more aware of what I am supposed to do. I can be more professional and have the performance be more entertaining." Douglas shared that he has been a part of the drum band for five years and it has helped him be more outgoing and confident.

Jamella Davelaar has been in the drum band for three years and said the band helps kids express themselves without fighting. "Kids that don't play music have a lot of anger," she said. The 14-year-old MPC student plays piano as well as the drums, but says they are completely different. "I feel more comfortable with the drums, because with the piano you have to calm down, but with the drum you have to be really up."

Zakiya Reiph has been playing drums most of her 12 years. She is a sixth grader at Sister Magda School. Her favourite thing about being in the Generation New Status Band is putting all her energy into hitting the drums, but she admits that the parades are not her favourite because her legs get tired.

Not all the members read music, but they are learning little by little. Dormoy is a master at leading the beat with dramatic style, allowing the rhythm to shift and come back to the starting beat. "They are fantastic players, that's for sure. The Howard University people are going to be impressed, I know that."

When asked if they will be intimidated playing with the older band members, Douglas quickly said, "We know what we are doing." De Suza added, "Yeah, like one person will make one sound and the next person will make a different sound and together they make a perfect sound."

Dormoy has recently introduced the trumpet to the band and six players have taken on learning the brass instrument. "We are getting there," he said. The dedicated director has the children practising at Cultural Centre on Back Street virtually every day. The only days they are not practising is when they are performing. The band is like a family, said De Suza, anyone can talk about anything, "We just leave no one behind."

Open house to watch the youth players of the Generation New Status Band is any Thursday afternoon from 5:00 to 6:30 at Philipsburg Cultural Centre on Back Street. Everyone is welcome to come watch the kids and offer encouragement.

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