By Shirley Hawkins
COMPTON — When young members of the California Blueprint Drumline prepare to entertain crowds at events throughout Southern California, attendees often marvel at the thunderous beat of the drums that fill the air with rhythmic precision.
“I named the group the California Blueprint Drumline because everyone needs a blueprint to start off their life,” said Terry Warren, the executive director and coach of the unit. “A blueprint is a design of your devine plan and life’s purpose and I believe that all of us have a purpose on this earth.”
The California Blueprint Drumline was formed to steer local youths away from a lifestyle of gangs and drugs while imparting valuable lessons that Warren hopes will last a lifetime.
“There is a lot of negativity surrounding these young people in Compton,” Warren said. “It is so easy to get caught up in local gang activity. But thankfully, these young people choose to shun the streets, show up faithfully for rehearsal and learn to play the drums instead.”
The group, which practices four days a week, subsists on donations and contributions from fundraising events. They have performed locally in the Kingdom Day parade, the Korean Peace parade, the Downey, Compton and Lynwood Christmas parades and the Juneteenth celebration in Santa Monica.
“We’ve traveled as far as Palm Springs and Las Vegas to participate in parades,” said co-director Eric Ruffins. “We’ve also participated in competitions in Houston, Las Vegas and Miami, Florida. And we’ve won trophies. We’ve placed first place in all of the events we’ve entered.”
Asked what attracts young people to the drums, Warren said, “It gives them a sense of power and makes them feel that for a split second everything negative in their life disappears. It is just them and their drums.”
Warren said dispensing life lessons is important to the organization.
“We try to teach the young people about the qualities of sportsmanship, love, obedience and determination as well as a love of music,” she said, adding that the young people in the group range in age from 16 to 20 years old. The current group is composed of six young men and four women.
TyJahn Jones, 18, has been with the Blueprint Drumline since he was 11.
“Mr. Ruffins came to my school seeking kids who wanted to be drummers,” said Jones, who plays the quads drum. “It was hard growing up in Compton because it can be dangerous. I’ve witnessed shootings and car accidents.
“The California Blueprint Drumline gave me the opportunity to forsake the streets and to inspire my community with the art of drumming.”
“I’ve been involved with them for almost two years now and it’s been great,” said Makayla Jones. “I don’t know what else I would be doing in my spare time if it weren’t for the California Blueprint Drumline. It keeps me out of trouble,” she added.
Makayla Jones is proud of the fact that the group has been awarded numerous trophies and is recognized as a beacon of light in the Compton community.
“It feels good that we as a team get the recognition we deserve from the hard work we put in,” she said. “We want to pass the love of the drums to young people so that hopefully it will help them as it has helped us.”
Warren said the excitement among the group is always high as they prepare for each performance. “The members love bringing joy to the community through their drumming,” she said, adding that the young people form a procession in their blue and white uniforms.
Warren said that she was attracted to the drums at an early age.
“I loved the vibration of the drums,” she recalled. “I played drums from the time I was 4 years old. I used to sit in the front row of the church to listen to the drummer. By the time I was 12 years old, I was playing drum solos in the church.
“We pay for some of the drums out of our own pocket, but some of our drums are donated,” Warren said. “We utilize the snare and tenor bass and the quad drums.”
Ruffin said that some of the drummers have become so experienced that they have been featured on television.
“We’ve had three of our drummers make appearances on TV shows,” Ruffin said. “They appeared on ‘America’s Got Talent’ where they were so good that they reached the quarterfinals. They also appeared on the ‘American Influence’ awards show on BET. We have some very talented young people in the group.”
Both of the co-founders have witnessed transformations in the young people who have joined the group. Changing lives for the better is the overall goal of the organization.
“There was one young man who had serious anger issues and was always lashing out,” Warren recalled. “He was rude and disrespectful and he played the drums very aggressively. But a few months later, after practice, he began to open up about the problems in his life and expressed his deepest emotions. He eventually calmed down. Not only that, but he began to take really good care of his drum.”
“We want to thank the California Dream Youth Academy run and operated by Karen Ruffins and Beverly Kelly for providing us with support and a place to practice,” added Ruffin.
“I just hope that we touch each and every one of these young people,” Warren said. “We tell them that you don’t have to be what the system wants you to be and you also don’t have to dribble a ball. I always tell them, ‘You can do anything you want to do.’
“I want them to be the best that they can be and to know the importance of family and friends,” said Warren, who added that the members have formed a tight bond. “We are like a family. You don’t pick your blood family but you can choose the friends who will be your family,” she said.
The California Blueprint Drumline can be reached at Instagram at California Blueprint Drumline or by calling Warren 323- 491-9504 or Ruffins at 562-387-9024.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at email@example.com.