To grow up in the Leopard family has been an incredible experience for me. It has taught me patience, understanding, adventure, problem solving, how to enjoy a wide variety of music, teamwork, and other lifelong lessons. I went into the Louisville Leopard group thinking I was just going to play some music for people and it turned out being one of the biggest influences in my life.
Not only has being a “Leopard” helped me musically, but it has helped me outside of the music world as well. A great example would be teaching children in all education subjects. I have an understanding that children learn in different ways and styles and if certain children don’t understand it one way, I need to teach those specific kids in a way they will grasp the subject. I strongly believe all children can learn anything they want to, it just depends on teaching them in a way they can understand the information. Most students also find that learning music will help them in other subjects as well. It has been known to raise math and some reading scores. Another example is if a child is learning a Latin rhythm or certain music from a different part of the world, they are more prone to make connections in their social studies class and have a greater appreciation.
When I was a Leopard (formerly known as the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists), it opened my eyes to the music world at such a young age. Diane set us up with amazing opportunities that I couldn’t as a child fully appreciate. I knew by the way she would explain things that it was a very big deal, but now that I am older I can see how incredible these experiences actually were. At the age of 9, I was trading solos with Ndugu Chancler and performing for huge events. A few years later, I got the chance to meet jazz vibraphonist, Lionel Hampton, while he was performing one of his last concerts in Louisville. In elementary and middle school I was traveling around the United States playing world class music with world class musicians and having fun while doing it. The Louisville Leopards were not just a music group for me, it was an experience that was setting me up for what I would want to do in the future and I didn’t even realize it. I was able to feel the music and love the music before I even learned how to really play. It was music, camping, great books, learning about animals, and taking care of animals that led me to a well-rounded life.
After graduating high school, I got the opportunity to come back to the Leopard family as a teacher and I didn’t even need to think twice. I wanted to pass on the lessons I got out of being a Leopard to the many other children who would be passing through the group. This could be an experience you have and learn a few things from or it could be a life changing event. Every person is different and I wanted the chance to change lives through music and be able to reach children on a level they never thought would be possible or teach them something they never thought they could learn. I see students at the beginning of the Leopard year acting one way and by the end they have grown into the group as if this were their family and lifestyle. We should all be lifelong learners and strive to always want to know more. Being a performer as well as being a teacher, I am always learning new things to teach these kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is what I was born to do and I will always do whatever I can for my Leopard family because they have done so much for me. I strongly believe that being open to what others have to teach and passing on the good that you have been given to you is a universal truth.