The kids in the Boys & Girls Club’s steel drum band have been getting booked for a lot of shows lately.
And with some of the members being teenagers, it’s only natural they’re now starting to wonder about getting paid.
“You are getting paid; you’re getting free lessons,” band director Kim Scott retorted as 16-year-old Zakiya Booker whined during a recent practice about the lack of income from her drum-playing skills.
“And didn’t we just take you to T.G.I. Friday’s?”
The spirited Zakiya, a Longwood High School student, is one of nine current members in the band, which had originally formed in 1999 through a Bellport community group before going on hiatus for awhile. It was brought back after the Boys & Girls Club set up shop in the new facility north of Montauk Highway in 2012.
The band, whose members are between 9 and 18 years old, has been playing more and more shows in recent months as word-of-mouth has spread. They do it all as a community service.
“They’ve been in demand a lot,” Scott said. “They’ve played as far down as Virginia Beach.”
Among other shows, the drummers performed at Brookhaven Town Hall in February — appearing on Channel 22 and getting a proclamation from the town supervisor in the process.
Just last month, they helped kick off a new business in Bellport Village.
The steel drummers mostly perform at club events and community events, though they’ll show up at the grand opening of a business now and again, said the Boys & Girls Club’s program coordinator, Jason Neil, whose mom, Joann, started the original steel drum band.
“We are a part of the chamber, so if there’s a business, we’ll try to promote the business,” he said. “We try to be good community partners.”
Unique to this steel drum band is a set of acoustic drums, manned by 14-year-old Jay McGhee of Bellport, whose drum solos help the other band members transition from song to song without them having to stop playing, because stopping can be problematic if people are up dancing.
His favorite of the 10 songs the band knows is “We Be Burnin’,” a reggae-inspired hip hop song released by Sean Paul in 2005.
But, as Scott says, she tries to make it so there’s a bit of something for all age groups.
During the practice, the band transitioned from “We Be Burnin’” to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which was first released in 1939 before becoming a 1961 hit by the doo-wop group the Tokens.
Scott’s daughter, Syriah, 16, also a Longwood student, said her favorite moment with the band came while performing recently at an event in Farmingdale, where a big crowd of people were up dancing and clapping.
“Everybody was cheering for us,” she said.
That was also a moment, she said, where the band members began to relax more and draw energy from the crowd — instead of simply staring down at their drums trying to remember what to do.
“That was the first time where, as we played, we moved and we smiled,” she said.
The rest of the band members:
Morris Haskins, 15
Seryna Waldron-Walker, 10
Neveah Brown, 10
Nariah Cooper-Gibbs, 9
Erin Gorden, 17
Jaleel Ballier, 18
Click here to see the band performing in Town Hall in February.
In-blog photo: Four members of the steel drum band perform at a June 12 grand opening event in Bellport Village. Photo by Ming Photography
Featured photo: Neveah Brown, 10, playing at the Bellport grand opening. Photo by Ming Photography