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Summer drum camp is instrument of change for youths

Drums and Dreams camp keeps kids off the street

Cedavean Waller and his mother, Charlene, operate a summer camp called "Drums and Dreams'' at the Neighborhood Academy on Millerfield Road. The eight-week camp teaches children in East Macon ages 6-16 to play the drums, read and write music and fo
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Cedavean Waller and his mother, Charlene, operate a summer camp called "Drums and Dreams'' at the Neighborhood Academy on Millerfield Road. The eight-week camp teaches children in East Macon ages 6-16 to play the drums, read and write music and fo

This little corner of the world is a better place because Cedavean Waller had a few crooked teeth in the sixth grade.

His orthodontist announced he had to have braces. Charlene and Dave Waller, like plenty of other parents, soon invested a small fortune in their son’s mouth.

At Miller Middle School, Cedavean auditioned for the school band. He wanted to play the baritone horn.

But the music director took one look at the young man’s embouchure and shook his head. No, you can’t play a brass instrument with that much metal in your mouth.

So Cedavean picked up a pair of drumsticks and headed for the percussion section. Snares and cymbals have been the soundtrack of his life ever since.

He was a drummer at Miller, then across the street at Central High, and finally at Northeast High, where he graduated in 2011. He majored in music at Edward Waters College, in Jacksonville, Florida, with an emphasis on percussion.

Wearing braces may have redirected Cedavean’s musical path, but the family genes deserve some credit. His father, a local truck driver, is a drummer and is involved with the music at the church the family attends — Mount Olive in Twiggs County.

When he was 15, Cedavean had a volunteer summer job with the recreation staff at North Macon Park. As part of the activities for the children who participated in the park’s summer programs, he was asked to organize a talent show.

To add some flair, he recruited a couple of high school drum buddies, Austin Sanderson and Edwin Williams, and they played in front of an appreciative audience.

That was the genesis for what became a performing drum team. Austin came up with the name StreetLine. They began acquiring old drums and fixing them up, and several were donated by local music stores.

Soon, percussionists from other schools were competing for a spot on the line. The group performed at festivals, parades and opened for a gospel concert at the Macon Coliseum.

Four years ago, StreetLine began evolving into a new direction, a different calling.

“We switched our emphasis from performing to cultivating,” said Cedavean. “We started working with kids who needed some guidance, structure and discipline and teaching them to read and write music.”

StreetLine was the springboard for what has become an eight-week summer camp, Drums & Dreams. For two hours every weekday morning, about 50 youngsters, ages 6 to 16, gather at Neighborhood Academy on Millerfield Road.

The old school is the former Bethany Academy. Before that, it was Duresville Elementary.

On a typical day, you might ride through the neighborhood and think you hear thunder rumbling in the distance or the sound of an 18-wheeler Jake-braking over on Highway 49. It can get loud.

It’s a symphony of snares and bass, tenor drums and clashing of cymbals. It’s a joyful noise when you consider many of the children arrived four weeks ago not even knowing how to hold a drumstick.

The camp is free to participants and funded by local foundations, grants and donations. Cedavean and his mother, Charlene, who helps direct the camp, see the dividends every day as the children learn to express themselves through music.

In fact, the name “StreetLine” has taken on a completely new meaning at camp.

“It keeps them off the street and in line,” said Charlene, an educator in the Bibb County schools for 18 years.

The Wallers are proud of the character-building that goes on at the camp. It’s transformational. There is plenty of fun, too. Cedavean gives nearly every child a nickname.

The young drummers will be taking their show on the road as the camp draws to a close at the end of the month.

There will be a special performance at Abilities Discovered in Warner Robins on Friday. A Music Award Showcase and spaghetti supper fundraiser will be held at 5:30 p.m. July 28 at Macon’s Terminal Station. (Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at streetline3.org) On July 30, the young drummers will participate in Bragg Jam activities. How cool is that?

Said Charlene: “They will take something away from being here, even if they never play the drums again.”

Ed Grisamore teaches journalism, creative writing and storytelling at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph. He can be contacted at edgrisamore@gmail.com

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