Drumline creates community


Contributed Photo

The Winona Little Warriors Drumline

Kellen Brandt, features writer

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m., the East End Recreation Center in Winona is alive and buzzing with kids rocking out. Winona’s Little Warriors is a drumline group consisting of kids around the Winona community.

Andre Bailey, band director and founder of Winona’s Little Warriors explained the origin of the ensemble.

“There were a lot of kids hanging out at the rec, including my son, and daughter,” A. Bailey said. “They would all be playing but then we had the bullies.”

A. Bailey explained his son was bullied and at one point when he received a video of his son being bullied and beat up, he knew he needed to do something about it.

“I thought, I got to do something, I got to start something with some kids out there,” A. Bailey said. “These kids were there every day.”

A.Bailey knew the child who bullied his son and had a personal connection to him from the past, so A. Bailey talked to the child and made a plan.

“You guys can’t be doing that out there fighting and stuff,” A. Bailey said. “So, you know what I’m going to do, I’m going to start a drumline and give you guys something productive to do.

A. Bailey worked with the recreation center  to start this group for kids in Winona. Starting with five kids ages five to 25, they started in the dance room at the recreation center playing on buckets.

“And it started growing from there and we did the Winona State Game Day Experience,” A. Bailey said. “We played on buckets there and the kids performed, and everyone loved it.”

After playing on buckets and getting their names out there, A. Bailey’s wife and executive director, Tara Bailey, started a GoFundMe page to raise money for real drums.

According to T. Bailey, getting new drums was a challenge as this group is free of charge to the families and kids who are a part of it. The Bailey’s wanted this program to be free so anybody could be a part of it and have a place in the group.

“We do cater a lot more to low income families,” T. Bailey said. “That’s primarily who finds their way here just because there’s a lot of struggle there, and there’s not a lot of resources for those families.”

After getting real drums, A. Bailey had to teach everyone how to play since the group does not require its members to have any experience with playing instruments prior to joining.

“They go by hearing, they know how to read music, but that’s not how we play. We play by memorization and feeling the beat, so they tapped into a skill that they didn’t know that they had which is awesome,” T. Bailey said.

This group never turns away anyone and most of the kids had never played an instrument before.

“Music is like a universal language; it just makes you feel good or if you’re frustrated. Come in and beat it out on a drum and it just intrigued them,” T. Bailey said.

A. Bailey taught all the kids how to play their drums and turned them into a real band.

“These kids, they had no rhythm, but now, they got rhythm in the end,” A. Bailey said. “I can’t teach them how to dance though. But they can beat these drums. These kids, they love these drums.”

After learning how to play the drums, Winona’s Little Warriors played at Winona State’s Game Day Experience and also performed in shows around town.

Winona’s Little Warriors has been a group for a little over a year. The group was started at the end of Sept.  2019.

  1. Bailey discussed how hard it has been trying to keep the group together despite COVID-19.

“By the grace of God, we’ve been holding on,” A. Bailey said.

According to A. Bailey, COVID has taken a toll on the group, but they have been resilient and found ways to still meet, practice and perform.

Aside from the drumline, the Bailey’s also focus on community, unity and education.

“It’s really awesome to see them not just in drumline when we’re watching them, but outside and in school, they’ve got each other’s back which is awesome,” T. Bailey said. “A lot of them probably wouldn’t have cross paths if it weren’t for this drumline.”

Before the end of the school semester, students do homework during rehearsals. They receive assistance from the adults, get tutored, and work on homework instead of drumline to give students extra time to focus on homework.

“One of the most important things of it all is what I’m instilling into these kids is unity. I instill unity and education, because I say education is first and drumline is second,” A. Bailey said.

A.Bailey talked about how this group has become so much more than just kids playing drums.

 “This is a safe haven for a lot of these kids.” T. Bailey said.

Before every practice starts, the kids discuss their day. They know no food is allowed at rehearsal, and to always put their phones away.

“Getting these kids involved into something positive, doing something constructive, they are rockin’, they will rock a college band out,” A. Bailey said. “That is how good they are. And I’m proud of them.”

About 25 kids come to practices regularly but the group only has 12 drums, so the kids have to take turns playing and practicing.

“We do try to fundraise wherever we can since we’re not our own nonprofit. We’re in the process of trying to become one kind of under the umbrella of Parks and Recreation because we’ve been going so long, they’re kind of starting to recognize us more,” T Bailey said.

Parents and volunteers work to make the drumline a good community program and bring snacks and food for events, practices and to celebrate birthdays for the kids in the program. The program directors also transport the kids to all their events and have primarily paid for all the drums the kids use.

“The youth is our future. We need to invest in them and give them guidance and teach them discipline and teach them how to respect authority and all of them face adversity in some way, and they need to know how to deal with it so that it doesn’t turn out badly,” T. Bailey said.

A. Bailey said Winona’s Little Warriors have come a long way since they began.

“These kids bring the noise, wow, I am so proud of them,” A. Bailey said.