‘Drumline Live’ to Pittsburgh

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“Drumline Live” creator and producer, Don P. Roberts, promises to give audiences “one of the best theatrical experiences of their life.” He is sure audiences will “laugh, stand with joy, applaud and maybe even cry.”

With lofty promises like that, it’s no wonder that the theatrical show is in its second national tour. It made a stop into Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater during Black History Month two years ago. It was then, and is now being presented by the Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents Series.

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DRUMLINE LIVE CAST

“Drumline Live,” which will be stomping onto the Benedum Center stage for one performance only Feb. 15, takes the excitement of an Historically Black College Football game halftime show, turned up the intensity by a thousand decibels and created a musical journey that spans various genres of music over several decades.

The show was the brainchild of Roberts who served as the technical adviser and executive band consultant for the Twentieth Century Fox hit movie, “Drumline,” which starred Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones and Zoe Saldana

As executive band consultant, Roberts’ duties included training the actors, rehearsing the band, and writing the precision drills.

“The actors were very humble, when they came to me they were students. Nick practiced until he got blisters on his hands and Orlando Jones was like a sponge. He asked a lot of questions because he wanted to learn all there was to learn about the character he was playing,” Roberts said.

The movie was nominated by the NAACP as the Most Outstanding Motion Picture and was also nominated for an American Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in a Feature Film.

“I felt like I had been training all my life for this,” said Roberts who holds a bachelor’s degree of science degree in Music Education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and a master’s degree in Music Education from Jacksonville State University.

“To put what I do daily on the screen was easy and energizing. It was exciting. I never got tired of it. When I worked on the movie, I watched the cast and the crew that were not from the South. They were amazed at what was going on,” Roberts added.

Roberts took his infectious attitude and the public’s love for the movie and turned it into a high-powered theatrical celebration of the Historically Black College and University musical concept and culture complete with top-notch musicians and dancers.

In addition to the worldwide love for the movie, Roberts also drew on his extensive musical background to produce “Drumline Live.”

Roberts, who played trumpet in middle and high school, has served as the instrumental music coordinator for the DeKalb County School System since 1996. He has also served as the chairman of the Music Department and Director of Bands at Southwest DeKalb High School in Decatur, Ga from 1990 to 1996. He was appointed to the dual role of DeKalb County Instructional Music Coordinator and Southwest DeKalb High School Co-director of Bands for 1998 to 2004.

Under Roberts’ guidance, the DeKalb County school system has one of the largest, most active and innovative music programs in the state of Georgia. There are more than 15,000 students participating in band and orchestra in DeKalb schools.

“Once the movie finally came out, it only confirmed what I already knew: The love for the Historically Black College and University band experience was something that would be enjoyable for all ages, genres and races. I thought we could take the entire experience to another level after the movie by taking it to the stage,” Roberts said.

Many of the musicians and dancers featured in the “Drumline Live” show have graduated from or are currently enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Roberts said although he accepted online auditions, the majority of the musicians were recruited from Georgia and Florida.

“The talent level in those areas is so high,” said Roberts.

Roberts is quick to say that those audience members in attendance who are expecting to see a regurgitation of “Drumline” the movie on stage won’t get that wish.

“They will see something much better! They won’t be disappointed. It’s the most exciting music history lesson they’ll ever experience. It’s a family show. It’s not just for kids, but for everyone. You will feel the power and excitement of “Drumline Live.” White audiences will get to experience our culture and African-Americans get a since of pride. This show puts Historically Black Colleges and Universities in a positive light.”

“Drumline Live” will be at the Benedum Center Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. for ticket information call 412-456-6666 or visit http://www.pgharts.org.

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