Diane Downs, Fabulous Leopard Percussionists
Diane Downs is the 2001 recipient of the Kentucky Governors Awards in the Arts Education Award.
Founder and director of the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists and a graduate of Morehead State University, Diane embodies the passion and spirit that allow the creation of truly meaningful differences in a students life. Although she has no training as a percussionist herself and volunteers as the groups director, its success is undeniable. The Fabulous Leopards not only have their own CDs, but also perform regularly at international conventions and conferences, including the 2000 International Association of Jazz Educators.
The kids also have performed with many music notables, including conga master Jerry Steinholtz, drummers Louie Bellson and Ndugu Chancler, percussionist Ruben Alvarez, and Latin jazz vibraphonist Victor Mendoza. It was Mendoza who said, Watching and listening to these young percussionists perform is a wonderful experience and reminds me of why I became a musician in the first place. Vibraphonist/marimbist Dave Samuels agrees: If they represent the future of percussion, he said, Im very optimistic.
The fact that participation in the group is based not on auditions, but on academics and satisfactory behavior, makes these accomplishments seem that much greater. Dianes equal-access approach teaches self-confidence, personal discipline, community awareness, respect for cultural differences, and the value of striving for success. Ive never tossed a kid out because of lack of musical ability, but I have cut kids because of their behavior, Diane explains. I can always find a way for someone to be involved who has the desire. The impact of this approachand this groupis evident on members, audiences, and parents alike.
Contact the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in care of Diane Downs, M.L. King Jr. Elementary, 4325 Vermont Ave., Louisville, KY 40211, (502) 485-8285.