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The NBA calls on Brooklyn drumline - Talented youngsters showcase stick skills at annual All-Star game spectacular

For its yearly All-Star blowout, the NBA handpicked an A-list line-up of entertainment: Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige – oh, and a group of Brooklyn teenagers! Yes, these youngsters packed up their drumsticks and headed down to Las Vegas where they rubbed shoulders with celebrities and basketball elite. The group – known as the Nets Drumline – was specially selected to hammer out its trademark show at a host of flashy NBA events, including Sunday’s All-Star match-up. At their final rehearsal on Tuesday, the youngsters fine-tuned their precision beats and fancy footwork. During practice, these straight-faced musicians were the definition of discipline. But just below the surface these Vegas-bound teens were positively giddy. “I was really excited,” said 14-year-old Donnaysia Ifield of learning she’d made the All-Star squad. “I told all my friends, and I even told my principal!” Donnaysia’s drumline is performing for its second season. They’re a crowd favorite during many New Jersey Nets home games, and have also made numerous television appearances. But these perks don’t come easy: they’re the result of a lot of sweat and tears. These percussionists rehearse for three hours a day, five days a week. “It’s strict, and you have to work hard,” said Donnaysia, an 8th grader at MS 113, 300 Adelphi Street. The Nets Drumline is just one ensemble that has emerged from the Brooklyn Music and Arts Program (BMAP), a thriving after-school program. To celebrate the drumline’s national recognition, Nets’ owner and mega-developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Companies has donated $10,000 to BMAP. The Fort Greene-based nonprofit was established in 2004 to provide inner-city youth with a creative outlet. But the curriculum is much more than just music. “Our program is academically-focused,” said Tyrone Brown, BMAP’s Executive Director. Students receive tutoring and homework help, and must maintain good grades. The program is designed to foster youth leadership and also teaches teens how to manage demanding schedules. “As adults, we have to juggle responsibilities,” Brown said. “Why not prepare these guys early?” In fact, the trip to Las Vegas underscores the organization’s academic emphasis. Only eight of the drumline’s 12 members were invited to perform at the Las Vegas All-Star weekend. Brown said students were selected not on their musical ability, but instead were chosen because of their “top report cards.” “It’s their reward,” Brown said. “It helps bring home my whole mission.” The Nets Drumline performed at a host of competitions and promotions beginning on Friday, and culminating with Sunday’s 56th NBA All-Star Game. All events were televised nationally on TNT.

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