Working in harmony, the NYPD band and East Flatbush Blue Angels Drum Line ensemble held a musical clinic for at-risk youth in Lower Manhattan last week.
As the sun began to set along the FDR Drive on Sept. 15, the resounding sound of drumbeats echoed beneath the Manhattan bridge while members of the East Flatbush Blue Angel’s Drum Line performed for the community with the NYPD band in their first joint, free show.
The drum line clinic focused on at-risk youth, helping to bridge the divide by showcasing a creative activity that allows them to express themselves through art.
“We would like to give the message that we are all the same and can relate to each other in many different ways. Music being a very important way, kind of the international unspoken language. You don’t even have to speak the same language and you can tell where each other is coming from,” said Police officer Zachary Appleton, who has been with the NYPD band for 13 years and serves as the drumline’s section leader.
From joggers to families taking a leisurely stroll across the waterfront, they were stopped in their tracks and watched the toe-tapping routine. Silhouettes at dusk, the troupe danced and pounded their instruments much to the delight of onlookers.
Samuel Toussaint, the executive director of the Blue Angels Music and Arts program, said that the group serves ages 13 to 24 offering New Yorkers the opportunity to learn how to drum and dance.
The effort to combine both officers and youth was developed by NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison’s Liaison Unit in hopes of improving police community relations.
“I was very excited from the moment that I heard that Chief Harrison gave us the opportunity to come together and do this,” Toussaint said. “It changed the perspective, showing that cops can have fun too. Cops can chill and cops can drum. I didn’t even know that,” he joked.
Toussaint hopes to be able to hold more combined musical performances with the NYPD. Steppers and percussionists danced, as the NYPD police band smashed their symbols in unison, together they showcased the unity between officers and residents.
“It was invigorating to me, we don’t get to often perform with other drumlines, other musicians, so it’s always a great opportunity for us to see what’s going on musically in the community and connect with community members. We really want to thank Chief Harrison for putting this together,” Officer Appleton said.
Amazed by the sheer talent of the youngsters, officers in attendance shared how much they enjoyed performing with the group.
“When we just hear and see the fun and the enjoyment they are getting out of the music and the instrument they are playing it is very special to us as well,” Officer Christopher Alese said, adding, “We are a part of their communities. I think that is important for them to know.”
For Nadine Calixte, who has been a dancer with the East Flatbush Blue Angels over the past year, this event displayed a needed bond between Black and Brown youth.
“Today was great! It was way more fun than I expected. It really meant a lot, given the things that have been going on between youth and the cops during the past year and half now and it’s just great to show the other side of things,” Calizte said. “Dancing is my life. It’s my passion, my joy, a way for me to express myself. It’s our moment. It’s our safe space.”