Snapshot: A Drummer's World

Samuel Gerweck

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Drummer’s World was conceived in a dream. One night in 2006 founder Alando Mitchell fell asleep thinking about ways he could support and empower youth in Goldsboro. He woke up the next morning with the vision of starting a drumline. 

That same morning, he went over to the Goldsboro YMCA and pitched his idea. The dream soon became reality.

“All kids love playing drums,” Mitchell told me recently. “You can play drums and still be cool.” 

Mitchell would know a thing or two about how cool playing drums can be. Born into a musical family, he said his love for percussion was cemented in third grade, when a group of older boys invited him to drum in their band for a talent show. “I hit my first note on the snare, and as soon as I hit the cymbal and the bass drum, the audience erupted. Right there, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” 

That’s exactly what Mitchell has done, and it’s been his goal to help as many kids feel the way he felt during that talent show as he can. 

The 15-year journey of A Drummer’s World hasn’t been without challenges. One of the biggest hardships the drumline has faced was losing its facility several months before the group was slated to be the first North Carolina drumline to appear in the esteemed Tuskegee Morehouse Football Classic Parade.  

“We ended up practicing outside for four months with no building. In the cold. Preparing to go to Georgia and Alabama,” said Mitchell. “Do you know that the kids didn't care that sometimes it was 32 degrees, and the wind was blowing? The kids just wanted to practice, so we practiced in an empty parking lot.”

 

"A Drummer's World Drumline: Keeping the Beat | Get Hype or Go Home!" highlights how Alando Mitchell leads a typical rehearsal.

 

What keeps Mitchell going through rough patches like that? He wants to make sure the kids know there are opportunities that he didn’t know existed when he was their age. Part of that is educating them on the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and drumlines. 

“I think one thing that keeps me coming back is when I was growing up, although I had great mentors in my life, nobody ever told me about HBCUs. I never knew about HBCUs until I was 21 years old and married,” said Mitchell. “You got kids that go to HBCUs that say the band is the only thing they’re there for.” 

The historical ties between HBCUs and drumlines is strong, and Mitchell hopes that by getting his students hooked on the drums, they’ll wind up on the college path.

A Drummer’s World is no longer practicing in that empty parking lot. Its current base is the Goldsboro Boys and Girls Club, and Mitchell is on the hunt for a permanent home of its own. The pandemic halted marching for a few months, but the drummers started up again in September 2020 following the state’s new COVID-19 safety regulations. Mitchell’s long-term goal is to “get A Drummer’s World at a plateau where it's self-run,” freeing him up to start drumlines in other communities that need them. That would be a true drummer’s world.


Learn more about A Drummer's World here.


 

2020 was an unforgettable year, one defined by a pandemic and a racial justice movement in America. Charting a course through this historic time has been the sole focus of the North Carolina Arts Council for the last year. Marshalling emergency pandemic-response resources to the arts sector and addressing how disparities of race, class, and access stand in the way of our vision of arts for all people have been and will remain our top priorities. One measure we’ve taken this year intersects with both. 

In November, we announced our plan to distribute grants to 17 nonprofit arts organizations of color. These resources, made possible with support from South Arts,  will help recipients remain operational during the pandemic. From art galleries at Historically Black Colleges and Universities to a drumline in rural eastern North Carolina, these nonprofits are varied and diverse in scope, focus, and the communities they serve, but they are united in their efforts to use the arts to make a lasting, positive impact on their communities. They are among many organizations and arts leaders of color who are informing the direction of our racial and cultural equity work.

It is our pleasure to introduce you to several of them in our new series Snapshot. 

Over the course of several weeks, we will share profiles of the Leela Foundation (Cary), The GiftedArts (Garner), The Beautiful Project (Durham), A Drummers World (Goldsboro), Cine Odyssey (Charlotte), and Diamante (Cary).

On their own, each profile provides a glimpse of the dreams and values fueling the work of these nonprofits. As a whole, these stories offer a window into the way people of color in our state are using the arts to advocate justice, equity, and healing. We are grateful for the insights these leaders shared with us, and we are eager to share them with you, too. 


 

Sam Gerwek

Samuel Gerweck is the special programs coordinator and content strategist for the North Carolina Arts Council. Before joining the North Carolina Arts Council in this role, he was a key team member on the Come Hear North Carolina initiative and the 2019 Year of Music, serving as a content contributor, contract supervisor, and program facilitator. Trained in vocal performance and music theory, he focuses not only on highlighting the great variety of art in this state but also in understanding the people, places, and circumstances that influence its creation.