The Louisville Leopard Percussionists are a performing ensemble comprised of 60+ student musicians ages 7-16, who reside in 33 different Louisville zip codes and attend 49 different schools in and around Louisville, Kentucky.
Award-winning elementary school teacher Diane Downs started her first percussion ensemble, The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists, in 1993 after she found some old instruments in a storage closet in the school where she taught in Louisville. After ten years as artistic director of The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists, Diane began to explore how she might make the Leopard Percussionist experience available to children throughout the Metro Louisville community. In the fall of 2003, The Louisville Leopard Percussionists launched as a freestanding community 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, committed to providing the exciting and enriching Leopard Percussionist experience to all children in the Louisville community.
Our mission is to provide a comprehensive musical experience for children that enriches lives and builds community.
Our vision is for participants of diverse backgrounds to develop music appreciation, performance skills, proficiency on a variety of percussion instruments, and learn to improvise, compose, and teach music, and to care for their instruments. These skills build creativity and self-confidence and teach life-long values of personal discipline, cooperation, leadership, responsibility, and community.
Diane Downs is the founder and artistic director of The Louisville Leopard Percussionists. She is from Louisville, KY and began playing music at home at a very early age. She participated in band throughout school and entered Morehead State University in Morehead, KY with a music scholarship. After taking a year off of college to teach music in Montego Bay, Jamaica, she returned to Morehead to pursue her degree in elementary education. Diane earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Morehead State University in Morehead, KY and a Rank 1 status from the University of Louisville in the areas of gifted education and jazz pedagogy.
Diane founded The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in 1993, directed that group for ten years and then created The Louisville Leopard Percussionists, a non-profit, community based group. She also assists the “We Got The Beat” percussion ensemble in Fresno, CA and serves as a consultant to numerous elementary percussion ensemble programs around the United States. Diane was a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School System for 28 years. From 1989-2003 she taught 2nd & 3rd grade at ML King Elementary and from 2003-2018 she taught music at Norton Elementary. To learn more about Diane, click here: http://wfpl.org/five-things-teacher-diane-downs-on-music-confidence-and-mowing-the-lawn/
In recognition for her work, Diane received the 1996 WHAS TV/PNC Bank ExCel Award, the 2001 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts Education, the 2004 Louisville Arts Council Community Arts Award in Music, the 2005 Today’s Woman Magazine Most Admired Woman in Louisville in Education Award, the 2008 National Cable Leaders in Learning Award, the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Living the Vision Award, and the 2018 John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award through The Jazz Education Network and Berklee College of Music.
After aging out of the Fabulous Leopards, Kelsey continued her percussion studies through private lessons while at DuPont Manual High School and the Youth Performing Arts School focusing her skills on the marimba, snare drum, and Latin percussion studies. She became a member of the YPAS Percussion Ensemble which led to her performing at the 2004 Percussive Arts Society International Convention and the 2007 Bands of America conference in Indianapolis. She also participated in all-county and all-state bands during her middle and high school years and earned distinguished ratings for her performances at the annual Kentucky Music Educators’ Association convention. Outside of her formal education, Kelsey played in the University of Louisville pep band, her church and various special events around town.
When she’s not busy molding the minds of young musicians and performing, Kelsey enjoys hula hooping and fire juggling. A graduate from Indiana University Southeast with a degree in elementary education, she volunteers for the WHAS Crusade for Children and teaches drum clinics to non-profit organizations and schools. In addition to teaching Leopards, she performs and travels with The Southern Sirens while serving as a guest performer for many local musicians with various musical styles, ranging from Latin to Rock to Bluegrass and more. Kelsey’s most recent venture has been playing percussion in a new all girl band, Bungalow Betty.
Meg Samples hails from Mt. Sterling, KY and has been working with the Leopards since November of 2008. She graduated from the University of Louisville Jamey Aebersold Jazz Program in 2010 with a Bachelors of Arts in Jazz drum set.
Meg co-directs the Steel Leopards with Price McGuffey and Kelsey Lee, and also assists with the Advanced and Beginners Leopards group. Her main focus with the program has been arranging and drum set instruction.
Outside of the Leopards, Meg is the night host for WFPK, percussion instructor for Kentucky School For The Blind, teaches private drum lessons, and performs independently with many other wonderful musicians in the regional area.
Her current percussion projects include drumming with an eclectic jazz quartet Squeeze-bot http://squeezebot.com/, indie rock group The Deloreans http://deloreansmusic.com/, indie-folk group Bridge-19, electro-pop trio Big Momma Thorazine, and a throw-back eight piece ensemble called The Dixieland Solution. Meg has the best time ever working with such wonderful kids, the other assistant directors, and all the wonderful parents! She is supremely thankful to have found such a wonderful family in the Leopards.
Louisville native Price McGuffey has been lucky to be involved with music his whole life. At the age of four, he graduated from pots and pans to a toy drum set. With his love for music guiding him, he joined The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in their last year before they made the switch to the community-based group they are today. Price participated in over 40 performances with the Leopards including performances alongside artists Joe Morello, Zoro, and Ruben Alvarez and he was featured in the HBO documentary “The Leopards Take Manhattan: The Little Band That Roared”.
Price is currently pursuing a Jazz Performance degree on drum set at the University of Louisville studying under Michael Hyman. His most recent recorded work is the album “Don’t Let Your Meatloaf” by the band Wilder Stallions. Outside of UofL ensembles, you can find Price on the weekends either performing in the house band at the Roux Louisville restaurant, elsewhere with The Big Quiet, drumming for Your Friendly Neighborhood Big Band, or on some other project that tickles his fancy. He is very happy to be co-directing the Leopards Lite and Steel Leopard groups with such a fantastic group of teachers.
Carly Rodman is a Louisville native, born and raised. She has loved music since she could kick along to the beat while still in her mother. She was lucky enough to be born into The Fabulous Leopard Percussionist while her brother was a member. She later joined The Louisville Leopard Percussionist when she entered the 2nd grade. Once she graduated from the Leopards after 6th grade, she became one of the founding members of The Steel Leopard Percussionists group.
Nearly 12 years later, she is now one of the assistant teachers for the beginner group of Louisville Leopard Percussionists, Leopard Lite group, and the Steel Leopards group.
Carly recently graduated from the Journalism and Communication program at duPont Manual High School before taking a gap year and working on the Bernie Sanders campaign for President. She will be attending the University of Louisville in the Spring of 2017 and majoring in Anthropology.
When Carly is not working with the Leopards she enjoys eating sushi, animals, and traveling.
Fons Cervera has lived in Louisville, Kentucky his whole life. He acquired his love of music when he first joined The Louisville Leopard Percussionists in 2007. He was in the group from his second grade year to his sixth grade year. In his sixth grade year he joined The Steel Leopards and remained in that group until his eighth grade year. While in the group he performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis, the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington DC, and the Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans. Since his graduation from the group, Fons has not been able to leave the Leopards.
After graduating from the Leopards, Fons began high school at duPont Manual High School, where he is currently a sophomore in the Journalism and Communications magnet. For his work on duPont Manual’s online news publication, Manual RedEye, Fons won the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Circle Award.
Fons marched first bass drum in the drum line of the duPont Manual High School Crimson Sound Marching Band in his freshman and sophomore years. While in the Crimson Sound, he marched in Walt Disney World’s Main Street Electrical Parade. Outside of school, Fons is an active member of the Louisville music community gigging around town with other musicians.
His freshman year of high school, Fons wrote and directed a piece for the Leopards at their 2015 Big Gig.
When Fons isn’t with the Leopards, he enjoys working for RedEye, playing his drum set or ukulele, and eating. He hopes to double major in journalism and political science and minor in music at Columbia University in New York City when he graduates high school.
Michelle, Middle School Ensemble director
Michelle Lewis received her Bachelor of Music Education from Morehead State University, a Masters in Percussion Performance from Rutgers University, a Rank I in Orff-Schulwerk from the University of Kentucky, and an administration certificate from the University of Louisville. She has studied percussion extensively with Frank Oddis, She-E Wu, and Dennis DeLucia.
Ms. Lewis has performed with a variety of ensembles including, but not limited to the Rutgers Wind Ensemble (Mark Custom Recordings), Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, Leigh Howard Stevens Marimba Seminar, Percussive Arts Society International Indoor Drumline Champions of Morehead State University, Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, Victoria Symphony in Victoria, Texas and toured with a Texas Country-Rock Band in the Dallas and Houston area. In 1996, she place 2nd in the Percussive Arts Society International Marimba Competition. She currently performs with the Voices of Kentuckiana, The Brass Band of Louisville, Centerstage, and is a snare drummer with the Louisville Pipe Band.
Ms. Lewis is published in the GIA Publication, “Orff Schulwerk-Reflections and Directions” for her implementation of Orff in Band. Michelle has written articles for the KMEA Bluegrass Music News and is a pioneer of creativity in the performing ensemble classroom using Orff inspired methods.
She is a member of the Kentucky Music Educator’s Association, National Association for Music Education, Kentucky Orff-Schulwerk Association, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, Percussive Arts Society, and the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild.
In addition to these memberships, Ms. Lewis serves on the Executive Advisory Board for Composers and Schools in Concert, is a volunteer outreach member for the Jazz Education Network, is an artist with Capuchin Percussion and is an education endorser for Salyers Percussion in Sugarland, Texas.
Sam, assistant director
Sam Universe is an assistant for the Middle School Ensemble and Leopards Lite. He is a graduate of Oldham County High School (2008) and is currently a student at the University of Louisville. He is a montessori teacher and lover of music.
He marched snare and tenors in his high school drumline as well as playing in the pit. He played in concert band, jazz band and several small ensembles. He’s received individual and group awards at Solo and Ensemble festival and KMEA. He was a participant in all county, all district, and all-state band. He performed across Europe with the Kentucky Ambassadors of Music program and in Canada at the Toronto Heritage Festival. He’s performed in Boston and New York and several places closer to home.
Sam enjoys reading, creative projects, and playing ukulele. He hopes to continue following his passion for music and arts at an academic level. He’s very excited to be working with the Leopards!
Aaron, assistant director
Aaron Klausing, a graduate of Oldham County High School (1999), completed his high school education with a variety of musical recognitions. While receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in Music Education (2004), Aaron was involved in the University of Kentucky’s percussion ensemble, orchestra, symphonic band, marching band, pep band, and steel band. During the summer of 2000, he marched with the Southwind Drum and Bugle Corp and has played in the Americana Folk band, the Rainjunkies®, from Lexington, Kentucky. Aaron has also performed at the PASIC, KMEA, and with the Appalachian Brass Orchestra. In addition to his performances, he has arranged and composed music for various middle and high schools in Kentucky.
Aaron attended the University of Louisville’s school of music where he graduated with his master’s degree in music education in 2010. While attending UofL, Aaron served as the principal percussionist in the University Wind Ensemble.
Aaron joined the Leopards in January of 2008 as an assistant teacher and arranger, and also started The Steel Leopards in 2009 as lead teacher and arranger. Aaron currently teaches band in Owensboro, KY but still helps with the Leopards.
Brittany Franks has lived in Louisville all of her life. She has the distinction one being an original member of the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists when it was formed in 1993. While in the Leopards, Brittany had the honor of performing at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort, the Kentucky and Indiana State Music Educator’s Association conventions, the Atlanta Band and Orchestra convention, and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Orlando, FL.
After her time with the Leopards, Brittany continued to hone her percussion skills performing in ensembles at Noe Middle School, the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS), and Bellarmine University. During her high school years, Brittany was a member of all-county and all-state bands and performed with the YPAS Percussion Ensemble at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).
Beginning in 2004, Brittany served as assistant director for the Louisville Leopard Percussionists until 2017. In the fall of 2009, she helped create the experience group, Leopards Lite. Since its inception, Leopards Lite has doubled in size and is comprised of children from approximately 20 different elementary schools in the Louisville-Metro area.
Brittany is married and has two children, Zachary and Zoe. In the fall of 2015, Zachary made his Louisville Leopard Percussionists debut as the first second-generation Leopard.
Board of Directors