When LaQuilla Reynolds looked around her neighborhood, she figured she should do something to give more students a chance to benefit from being in a band. So, last July, she created the Garden City Panthers.
"I thought, it's fun and different, and it's competitive," the Laney graduate says.
Her group includes 31 performers ages 9-18, who dance and drum in parades and competitions, exhibiting discipline and teamwork.
Practice is twice a week at the McDuffie Woods Community Center.
The group wants to be on par with other community bands and as good as the show bands at colleges, so Ms. Reynolds and her instructors hold the youngsters to high standards.
At a practice on July 18 during the group's summer camp, choreographer Kanesha Daniels, 17, a rising senior at Glenn Hills High School, was demanding the best from her students.
She's part drill sergeant (a kind one, but a hard one), part dancer. After one minute under her instruction the girls were "throwing" moves (intricate mini routines) that the other girls would mimic. The next, they were having to do two sets of 20 crunches for not doing the moves with enough energy.
"Dance is something I love to do," Kanesha says. "And I like to help people. I like kids."
When Ms. Reynolds approached her about helping out, Kanesha, a member of the Glenn Hills band and the CSRA Community Band, quickly agreed.
"Dancing, it lets you express things in different ways. There's body language; you talk without words."
For the girls on the line, the Garden City Panthers is one way to do that on a larger scale.
"I love to dance, especially with other people" says Jeffricia Leverett, 13, a rising eighth-grader at Murphey Middle School.
"I do it to entertain people," says Laneishia Pines, 14. "I have a good time. I like the parades because people are cheering us on."
The boys on the drum line are all getting a chance to build on their musical talents.
"None of the boys could play the drums, but (Carlos Daniels) taught them," Ms. Reynolds says. "They can't read music but they play by ear. It's something different for them."
Mr. Daniels, 20, and Chris Latimore, 18, both students at Augusta Technical College, help the boys learn the cadences for the band.
At summer camp practice, the youngsters beat on chairs until they have the complicated rhythms down. Then they head outside with their snares and bass drums.
"I let them hear it first," Mr. Daniels says. "Then I make them say it. If you can say it, you can play it."
The group has made great strides, Ms. Reynolds says. They are a real presence at local parades, college events and competitions.
Mr. Daniels and Mr. Latimore say working with the teens is a way of repaying a debt.
"We're trying to give back to what someone gave to us," Mr. Latimore said. "We were in the band ourselves in high school."
"This will keep them out of trouble, keep them busy - and it's fun,'' Mr. Daniels says.
"They're enjoying it,'' Mr. Latimore says. ''That's what's good about it.
''Everybody is coming together doing what they love to do."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.myspace.com/gardencitypanthers for performance dates and information on how to join.
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The Augusta Chronicle
P.O. Box 1928
Augusta, GA 30903
Questions? Call Teen Reporter Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223.