March 24, 2020

This Alabama nonprofit teaches kids the art of drumming and teamwork

Meet Huntsville Community Drumline, one of the 15 finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. Five nonprofits each will receive $40,000 from The Atlantic and Allstate.

Huntsville Community Drumline provides free music education to youth, but they learn more than just rhythm and tempo—they learn leadership, teamwork, and the joy that comes from creative expression.

Editor's Note

Meet the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. The annual program from The Atlantic and Allstate honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities. This year, five winners each will receive a $40,000 prize from The Atlantic and Allstate. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out who the winners are and follow the hashtag #RenewalAwards.

Teach kids how to drum and you teach them how to thrive. That’s the ethos behind Huntsville Community Drumline.

The Alabama nonprofit was founded in 2010 by Angela Walker, a retired as a school teacher who, after 30 years of teaching, wasn’t quite ready to stop mentoring young people. She wanted to find a way to help young people in the area that didn’t involve a typical classroom setting—but still provided a safe haven.

“I could sit there and complain all the time on the couch watching the news, saying, ‘why doesn’t somebody do something? Why doesn’t somebody provide more programs or more outreach activities?'” Walker told WAAY. She got to work.

Walker had previously volunteered as a drumline instructor at her church. For her, drums had always been a tool with the potential to teach lifelong skills. From that passion for music, the idea for Huntsville Community Drumline was born.

“We work with children from all walks of life who want to play the drums,” Walker told WHNT. “We teach them how to play the drums and then we take them out and let them perform.”

All children can join at no cost—instruments, lessons, and transportation are all provided. Since its founding, Huntsville Community Drumline has impacted more than 3,000 young people. For their work in youth empowerment, the nonprofit was named one of 15 finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards, a program of The Atlantic and Allstate.

While the nonprofit began as an after-school and weekend program, it has expanded into schools around the Huntsville area, with programs available for first through ninth graders.

But it’s more than just musical rhythms that participants learn. It’s the rhythms of life.

In addition to performing for the community, youth learn leadership and team-building skills, and are encouraged to do well in school, with many even preparing for college scholarships.

“It does require a lot for them to be able to work together as a team and that’s important because we want them to have jobs! So they’re gonna have to learn how to work with each other,” Walker told WAAY.

For the latest updates from Huntsville Community Drumline, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can donate to the nonprofit here.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project.