Streetline teaches local kids more than music

(Macon) – “It all began with 3 small drums and a dream,” says Charlene Waller, CEO of Streetline, Inc.

Macon-Bibb County high school graduate Cedavean Waller was still a Central High School student in 2009. He was up late, enjoying a midsummer night of nostalgia. Waller spent the night reminiscing about his high school friends, Austin Sanderson and Edwin Williams, and their common bond as percussionists.

Participants in Camp Drums and Dreams performing at Macon's Terminal Station, Courtesy of Charlene Waller
Participants in Camp Drums and Dreams performing at Macon’s Terminal Station, Courtesy of Charlene Waller

At the time, Waller was a summer volunteer at North Macon Park, one of Macon-Bibb County’s busiest recreational centers. The park was hosting a summertime talent show. Waller came up with the idea of assembling percussionists to form a drumline to perform in the talent show, and he hoped to start by recruiting his own friends first.

The drumline performance at North Macon Park was a huge success—for both the crowd and the percussionists.

“After being disappointed with the limitations of many high school bands,” explains Charlene, who is Cedavean Waller’s mother and earliest supporter, “Cedavean decided to continue the drumline group– thus giving other children an opportunity to partake. The love of percussions inspired him to bring back the good feelings he lost when his friends Austin Sanderson and Edwin Williams graduated from Central High School.”

Cedavean explains that “in the beginning, Streetline were a group of talented teenagers eager to practice and perform for the city of Macon at any given moment.”

“We were having after-school rehearsals located behind North Macon Gym in preparations for the 2009 Christmas parade,” he continues. “That parade was the initial performance when we realized that we were a family that shared a common interest of showcasing our gifts outside of attending Central High School.”

Since its beginning in 2009, Streetline has created quite the large family, with over 200 members. Although many of the previous Streetline members have gone on to graduate high school and college, enter military service, begin their own families and careers, “many still find time to dedicate their time to assist with the new and upcoming members,”Cedavean says.

The Streetline family is committed to giving back to the community. School children between ages 7 and 18 can participate in the program and learn how to play drums from former participants.

Cedavean is not only the founder of Streetline, but also he is the director and orchestrator of the program. He attended Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in music and an emphasis on percussion. As the sophomore drum major of his college marching band, Cedavean competed in the 2013 Honda Battle of the Bands in Atlanta, Georgia, with the Edward Waters College Triple Threat Marching Band. He brought his passion back to Macon when he graduated.

“Streetline is available to all who wish the learn the art of percussion,” says Cedavean. “The majority of the children who participate with Streetline are from low-income families.”

Streetline members playing drums during the Bragg Jam in downtown Macon.
Streetline members playing drums during the Bragg Jam in downtown Macon. Photo courtesy Charlene Waller.

The program is free, and approximately 30-50 young people participate in the lessons each session. When they begin the program, most of the young participants have little to no formal music education. The students progress at their own pace, within their assigned sections.

“Streetline is geared towards cultivating and refining young people in the direction that’s beneficial to constructive lifestyles,” says Charlene. “Young people are in need of –and actually seek — alternative opportunities, as opposed to the negative influences they are confronted with daily. Because we demonstrate our musical talents in varies communities, we maintain a vital role within the community.”

“We do not want our youths to miss out due to affordability,” Cedavean explains. “Our members are equipped with the ability to read and write music, execute performance etiquette as well as displaying the characteristic traits to channel their energy towards a positive future. “

“Music is a universal connection, something like a common ground of comfortability,” Cedavean says.

Streetline percussion students have had well over 200 performances during their eight year history. In the first year after the group’s inception, Streetline performed for the 2009 Christmas parade, the Georgia Baptist convention, and Mayor Robert Reichert’s daughter’s wedding reception. Other memorable performances include Macon’s Bragg Jam, the Magnolia Soapbox Derby, Moonlight Miles, Ronald McDonald Charities, Macon Pops, Macon Boys &Girls Club, Central Georgia Technical College games, Mercer University games, Macon Pine Toppers games, and many other community events

“Our latest performance was for the WGXA News 24 Morning Show,” says Charlene. The group appeared on television in Macon on November 22, 2017, for an interview and a performance.

In 2014, in an effort to reach more children and youth, Streetline, Inc., partnered with the Neighborhood Academy, and with the support of the Knight Foundation and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, they started Camp Drums and Dreams for Macon’s underprivileged youth ages 8 to 13.

Camp Drums and Dreams is an 8-week summer camp program that provides its participants with music education and performance experiences, educational enrichment, nutritional and physical health enrichment, and leadership development and character building activities. Every activity is designed to help the campers develop their highest personal and musical potential.

The Camp Drums and Dreams campers very first performance was the Showcase, in which the camp members displayed their newly developed skills with a performance and awards show. Over 300 people attended the showcase, which sponsored by the Knight Foundation.

Many of the Camp Drums and Dreams participants go on to become members of Streetline.

Charlene and Cedavean can list many impressive accomplishments of Streetline participants: Streetline promotes college readiness by advocating the importance of staying in school and providing academic assistance and enrichment to participants. The efforts have led to great rewards.

“Ninety-eight percent of Streetline members successfully graduate from an accredited high school and pursue post-secondary education,” says Cedavean. “Many of our members attended Edward Waters College on music scholarships.”

Streetline produced a strong showing of high school graduates even when Macon-Bibb County public school graduation rates were at their most dismal.

To keep students motivated, they travel to explore a variety of colleges and professional bands. Streetline also exposes their participants to a variety of motivational speakers who connect the youth to the goals of the program.

“All Streetline members assist with the growth of the program,” explains Cedavean, “and all members are highly praised and recognized for their contributions and dedication” to the future generations of Streetline.

In fact, many graduates return during the school year or in summer sessions, not only to share their love of percussion and performing, but also to share essential skills like reading and writing with younger children.

“Watching Streetline grow and continue to execute my inner thoughts as if it were theirs always brings me satisfaction,” adds Cedavean.

Perhaps the key to Streetline’s success is the vision of its founders.

“All members are considered family members,” explains Charlene. “We interact as a family and we have family-style meals and discussions.”

“This is our ministry; this is our way of giving back and showing that we care about our future youths and communities,” Charlene continues, “and giving kids an opportunity to partake in something positive and free is rewarding enough.”

Funding the program is the biggest challenge that Streetline faces.

“With our program being free, naturally sustainability is a great challenge. Constantly we need repairs made to the drums, sticks break and drum heads get busted,” says Charlene. “But God always makes a way.”

In 2011, Streetline became a 501c3 non-profit organization with the help of New Town Macon and Mike Ford.

“Mr. Mike Ford paid for STREETLINE to become a 501c3 organization,” Charlene explains. “Our organization relies on the generosity of individuals in the community. We’ve received grants from the Knight Foundation, Peyton Anderson Foundation, SunTrust Perot-Fiero and SunTrust Porter. We’ve received donations from Walmart, Ace Hardware, Publix, Middle Georgia Food Bank as well as Mrs. Beverly Olson, Rosemary Spiegal, Michael Horner and many other individuals.”

Streetline also requests a $250 donation for each performance and they utilize Facebook fundraising, including a campaign during the holiday season where volunteers can provide needed items, ranging from drinks for thirsty kids at practices and drum sticks to monetary donations.

“Our mission is to provide a diverse multicultural group of youth and young adults in the community an opportunity to explore new avenues of living, learning and self-expressions through music,” Charlene says. “Donations from the community are welcomed and greatly appreciated.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit the Streetline website at www.streetline3.org

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