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Memphis Youth Arts Initiative drumming up interest in camp

The organization will host a free camp teaching the basics of drums the rest of the week in North Memphis.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County students are out of school this week enjoying their spring break, but parents might be wondering what their kids can do to stay out of trouble.

The Memphis Youth Arts Initiative has a solution: drum camp.

James Crutcher spent part of Monday morning marching down Vollintine Avenue, a street in North Memphis, because the streets are what he hopes to help other kids avoid.

"I was getting in trouble. I was always in the streets and stuff," Crutcher said. "I decided I wanted to change my life and just chase my passion. Drums are my ticket out the streets."

Crutcher, a 9th-grader and section leader for MYAI, has been playing the drums most of their life.

"I’ve been playing since I was 18 months, I used to always go to church," Crutcher said. "I watched my cousin and them on the drum set and that’s how I got started before I started playing quints and stirs and bass and stuff."

Crutcher will spend his spring break teaching others as part of the Memphis Youth Arts Initiative. Cory Travis’ organization is drumming up a free camp this week to teach students the basics.

"The discipline part of it, we’re trying to teach that this week and just give them something to do for spring break that’s free and exciting and possibly lead to membership in our organization or a love for drums in any other way," Travis said.

Travis taught drums in schools for about 10 years before he started the organization as a way to bring the arts to struggling students. Since he brought his rhythm to Memphis, he's noticed a change in his students.

"I've seen F students become A students. Bad students into good students. Instead of looking at gangs and rap music, they were looking at drums and (historically black colleges and universities)," Travis said.

Travis hopes to incorporate popular music and TikTok trends in camp this week to instill a new love for drums in someone’s student.

"Hopefully they just learn the basics by the end of the week and so if they learn the basics maybe they’ll want to do more or tell their parents ‘this is something I might want to try,'" Travis said.

He wants to let his students inspire others.

"Everything that’s going on in Memphis, I want (the camp students) to be better than that. Strive for more," Crutcher said.

The camp runs through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library on Vollintine Avenue.

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