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Five Things: Teacher Diane Downs On Music, Confidence, And Mowing The Lawn


Our guest this week on Five Things is Diane Downs, a musician and a teacher who leads one of the most unusual performing ensembles you’ll ever hear.

Picture it: 40 or so middle and elementary schoolers with marimbas, cymbals, xylophones, timpani, keyboards, a drum kit or two — that's the Louisville Leopard Percussionists. It sounds like utter madness, and sometimes it is. But it’s also a team-building, self-esteem-raising activity that kids love.

Listen to our conversation in the player above.

On her riding lawnmower, which she uses to mow the family land:
"My dad died in 2000, and I've been mowing everything ever since. I do my next door neighbors' yard, and then I do my yard, then I do my mom's yard. And then I do the field and around the barn and down the hill to the pond. I mow trails through the woods, all over. And I ride around and I look at that land that my family grew up on —- my daddy grew up there, I grew up there -- and I talk to my dad. I love it back there."

On what her Louisville Leopard Percussionists learn:
"Just being together and being friends, and getting to play music together, coming together and working hard on something and preparing and preparing, and then you go out and present yourself — then you get rewarded, you get to do something cool. And you know, that's not music, that's life: you work, you prepare, you present, then you get rewarded. And if you learn that when you're little, then it makes sense when you're older."

On what she would have told her younger self:
"If back 25 years ago, if I was presented with this opportunity -- here, this is what you're going to be doing for 25 years -- I wouldn't have done it. There's no way -- I don't have the self-confidence to pull that off!  But the kids were behind me the whole time, holding me up -- I couldn't get let them down. I had to do this because I saw what it meant to them."

Five Things is available wherever you get your podcasts. You'll find more episodes  here.

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