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DRUMLINE

One Band, One Sound
During production, Charles Stone and his team marshaled hundreds of musicians and performers in six marching bands, with each band becoming a character in its own right. Real-life college Morris Brown, based in Atlanta, was a key participant in the film – "They were quite sensational," says Stone, "playing an incredibly wide range of music" – but that still left the filmmakers with the formidable task of finding 170 musicians with marching band experience to embody the fictional Atlanta A&T Pounding Panthers. The Panthers had to look and sound like a real college band in scenes staged with Morris Brown while embodying the film's "One band, one sound" theme over a very short rehearsal period.

Stone turned to one of the film's producers, Timothy M. Bourne, as well as technical adviser Don Roberts to help cast the components of DRUMLINE's "hero" band. In casting the band, Roberts and Bourne recruited Atlanta high school band members, college band members, even college graduates with advanced degrees. The age range of the Atlanta A&T University band was 16-26. "We spent the first week of rehearsal just trying to make them look like one band," laughs Roberts.

The DRUMLINE cast was challenged in its efforts to make its musicianship believable. Nick Cannon and his double, Jason Price, spent innumerable hours in the former's hotel suite practicing on a silencer pad. Cannon even slept with drumsticks tied to his hands when he first trekked to Atlanta to join the production. Once he got the feel for how to hold the sticks, he started the demanding drum training.

"They shouldn't call this drummin'. This should be called drumnastics," Cannon jokes about the rigors of learning how to drum in a black college marching band. "I got sores on my hands from playing so much! Drumline members do all these things with their sticks, throwing them, marching while you're playing. We went through weeks and weeks of that, training at the school. "We went through drummin' in the rain and exercises where we ran up the bleachers with drums on our heads. At the end of the day, we wore sore, but it was worth it."

Co-star Leonard Roberts, also a novice on the drums, began his training at Atlanta's Southwest DeKalb High School, in a course called Drumming 101. "I was in there with these freshman and started from the very beginning," says Roberts. "They threw me and other cast members in there. From the very basics, I felt like I had two sticks handed to me and had to start a fire."

Actor GQ had a more daunting challenge: hauling around the 30-lb. bass drum, in his role as another aspiring freshman, Jayson, a Caucasian affirmative action student. Like his co-stars, GQ had little experience playing drums before arriving in Atlanta for rehearsals. Fortunately, the actor found a few real-life band members who took him under their wing. "They became my personal trainers basically, taught me the technique of how it's all in your wrist," says GQ. "While I was getting muscles, I had blood all over my drum. I had holes in my hands, layers and layers of skin peeling off and nasty cuts. I couldn't even bend my fingers."

During the brief rehearsal period, Don Roberts molded the actors into musicians in such a convincing way that Bourne claims the film's drumline could very well be "the finest in the nation. They're a group of all-stars that were just phenomenal. When they played in front of the crew for the first time, our drumline, twenty-six strong, just pounded the heck out of their drums. The crew just stood there, with jaws totally dropped."

Any band director in America will tell you that there's the band and there's the drumline," Roberts explains. "I call them the ‘heartbeat of the band'. They're like our Eveready ba

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