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Satchmo’s legacy spurs Hempstead youth

Fred Johnson, 12, rocks out on his drum

Fred Johnson, 12, rocks out on his drum kit during a rehearsal at the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation practice at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead. (May 13, 2011) Photo Credit: T.C. McCarthy

With just a week left before their debut performance, students in the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation program at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead are buckling down to fine-tune their music.

Students rehearsed piano in one classroom, guitar in another and drums in a third for their 7 p.m. free concert at the African-American Museum of Nassau County on May 21.

“The program, I feel, is a much-needed endeavor,” said Jackie Harris, a foundation employee who oversees the Armstrong program at Hempstead. “We’ve heard from lots of parents expressing how happy they are this program exists and how serious their kids have become about their music education.”

The program came to Hempstead last year as a summer camp, and it continued into the school year. Instructors such as J. Keith Davis, who has worked with the likes of Steve Harvey and John Legend, now spend their afternoons enriching teens with music.

“The way they have merged the professionals with the students is a plus,” said Davis, a music teacher at the school. “These people that I work with, they know that this is important.... and we would want to see it continue and flourish.”

Dwayne Henderson, 14, said the program has changed the way he thinks about the future. He has always dreamed of playing the guitar, and would occasionally pick one up. But since he started really learning last month he’s begun viewing it as a career path.

“It’s going good for me; I’m still learning,” he said. “I’ve been thinking a bit lately I’d really like to start writing songs.”

Above: Fred Johnson, 12, rocks out on his drum kit during a rehearsal at the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation practice at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead.

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