The Louisville Leopard Percussionists are a performing ensemble comprised of student musicians in grades 2-12 from all around the Louisville, Kentucky area.
Mission & Vision
Our mission is to provide a comprehensive musical experience for children that enriches lives and builds community.
Our vision is for participants of diverse backgrounds to develop music appreciation, performance skills, proficiency on a variety of percussion instruments, and learn to improvise, compose, and teach music, and to care for their instruments. These skills build creativity and self-confidence and teach life-long values of personal discipline, cooperation, leadership, responsibility, and community.
Award-winning elementary school teacher Diane Downs started her first percussion ensemble, The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists, in 1993 after she found some old instruments in a storage closet in the school where she taught in Louisville. After ten years as artistic director of The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists, Diane began to explore how she might make the Leopard Percussionist experience available to children throughout the Metro Louisville community.
In the fall of 2003, The Louisville Leopard Percussionists launched as a freestanding community 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, committed to providing the exciting and enriching Leopard Percussionist experience to all children in the Louisville community.
Watch this video to learn more about us!
Music is for everyone and music comes from everyone. We celebrate diversity in our students, staff, and audiences. We are committed to representing the families we serve, their cultures, and their communities through our programs. The Louisville Leopard Percussionists will always work to create an environment of inclusion and learning, and to stage performances that showcase diverse artists.
Diane, founder & artistic director
Diane Downs is the founder of The Louisville Leopard Percussionists. She is from Louisville, KY and began playing music at home at a very early age. She participated in band throughout school and entered Morehead State University in Morehead, KY with a music scholarship. After taking a year off of college to teach music in Montego Bay, Jamaica, she returned to Morehead to pursue her degree in elementary education. Diane earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Morehead State University in Morehead, KY and a Rank 1 status from the University of Louisville in the areas of gifted education and jazz pedagogy.
Diane founded The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in 1993 at ML King Elementary School in Louisville, directed that group for ten years, then created The Louisville Leopard Percussionists. She serves as a consultant to numerous elementary percussion ensemble programs around the United States including “We Got The Beat” percussion ensemble in Fresno, CA. Diane was a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School System for 28 years. From 1989-2003 she taught 2nd & 3rd grade at ML King Elementary and from 2003-2018 she taught music at Norton Elementary. To learn more about Diane, click here: http://wfpl.org/five-things-teacher-diane-downs-on-music-confidence-and-mowing-the-lawn/
In recognition for her work, Diane received the 1996 WHAS TV/PNC Bank ExCel Award, the 2001 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts Education, the 2004 Louisville Arts Council Community Arts Award in Music, the 2005 Today’s Woman Magazine Most Admired Woman in Louisville in Education Award, the 2008 National Cable Leaders in Learning Award, the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Living the Vision Award, the 2018 John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award through The Jazz Education Network and Berklee College of Music, and the 2019 Percussive Arts Society Outstanding Supporter Award. Diane is a member of The Percussive Arts Society, The Jazz Education Network, National Association for Music Education, The Kentucky Music Educators Association, Impact 100 Louisville, and is on the board of directors of Hit Like A Girl.
Outside of Leopards, Diane lives on her small family farm and enjoys spending time caring for her chickens, walking in the woods, and mowing grass. To contact Diane, email her at email@example.com.
Wes, ensemble director
Wesley Greer has returned to the Leopard teaching staff! He works with our Studio Leopards, Middle School Ensemble, our Performing Groups, and various other Leopard projects.
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, Wes Greer began playing drums at the age of ten and studied rudimental snare drum. His passion for music led him to playing drum set, where he focused on different styles including rock, jazz, Latin, and funk.
He pursued a degree in jazz studies at West Virginia University, where he had the opportunity to play in small jazz combos, the WVU big band, concert band, and world music ensembles including: Brazilian, Gamelan, Taiko, African drum and dance, and percussion ensembles. He instructed and performed at the 2017 Newport Jazz Camp, and performed at the 2018 Thailand International Jazz Conference under the direction of Jared Sims.
In 2020, Wes started Manimal Music LLC, which allowed him to open his own private teaching studio where he teaches drum lessons, piano lessons, and percussion lessons. His background in jazz and world music gives him a deep understanding of various styles, and allows him to break down even the hardest of grooves so that the novice musician can understand them.
While he enjoys teaching, you can also find Wes playing in local bands around Louisville. He has recorded and performed with Honeymack, and is currently playing with the Ruen Brothers on their Ten Paces tour.
Laura, ensemble director
Laura Barnhorst moved to Louisville in the fall of 2020, and is attending the University of Louisville as a Music Therapy student, with an emphasis in percussion. Laura participated in the marching percussive arts for four years throughout high school, and now participates in the UofL percussion studio. She has also participated in the UofL Community Band and the UofL Symphonic Band.
Laura began working with the Leopards in December of 2021 and currently serves as a teacher for the Advanced and Beginner groups and the Spotlight on the Groove ensemble. She is excited to build leadership skills, and musical skills not only as an individual, but within a group. Laura is very excited for the future to come within the organization.
Outside of music, Laura loves to travel and spend time with her friends and Family. Laura is originally from a small town in Southeastern Indiana, and enjoys to visit her hometown as well.
Elijah, drum set specialist
Elijah Smith was born and raised in West Louisville. Elijah began showing interest in music as an infant and picked up drum set by the age of four. Because of his love and interest for music, he learned violin, piano, and classical guitar by the 8th grade. Throughout high school Elijah participated in concert band, marching band, and jazz band.
Currently, Elijah is attending Simmons College of Kentucky as a music performance major, with a concentration in percussion. At Simmons, Elijah participated in marching band for three years, and is currently in concert and jazz band.
Elijah is also a musician and an audio engineer in a few of the local churches in the city of Louisville, and also gives drum lessons.
Elijah joined the Leopards in February 2022 as a drum set specialist. He plans on using this opportunity to grow and learn as a teacher, leader, and musician, and looks forward to being a part of the future of this program.
Outside of music Elijah enjoys sports, spending time with friends and family, and traveling.
Demond, ensemble director
Demond Smith began playing drum set as a four year old. He has extensive experience in participating in and teaching high school and drum corps drum lines.
By the time he was a preteen he was playing drums at his father’s church, eventually taking over as Director of Music where he played piano, organ, and taught vocal music.
Demond attended Morehead State University on a music scholarship where he participated in marching band, percussion ensemble, concert & symphonic bands, and jazz band. He was a member of the MSU Drum Line & Percussion Ensemble which placed 1st at the 1992 Percussive Arts Society International Convention Ensemble Competition. Demond studied jazz theory at the University of Louisville and finished his degree back at Morehead State University in jazz performance. Throughout his education Demond was very active as a performer and educator.
Since 1991, Demond has served as a percussion instructor, drum line instructor, and band camp instructor for numerous schools throughout Kentucky and Ohio. He performed with Dutch Boy Drum & Bugle Corps and The Cadets of Bergen County and served as a percussion tech for the Cadets during their 2003 summer tour. Demond was also a percussion adjudicator for high school drum lines from 1998-2012.
Since 1995 Demond has served as Director of Music at various churches and since 2004 has been the Director of Music for Little Flock Baptist Church in Louisville. He is currently the Director of Percussion at Jeffersontown High School where he has been since 2010.
In his free time Demond enjoys hanging out with his daughter Jude (who is a Beginner Leopard), spending time in the kitchen making healthy food and green juice, and working out at the gym. Demond is excited to be a part of such an extraordinary innovative group of musicians and to go on this percussive journey with his daughter, Jude!
Luke, ensemble director
Luke Anderson is a Louisville native, attending University of Louisville for a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. Luke is finishing up an internship with Restorative Sound LLC, where they intend to continue working after passing the CBMT Board Certification Exam to become a licensed music therapist. They began their music journey at the age of 8 with piano and becoming a percussionist a few years after in 5th grade.
Luke recently joined the LLP team in August of 2022 and is currently the lead teacher for Steel Leopards and The Middle School Ensemble.
Outside of the Leopards, Luke is a lesson and percussion sectional teacher for different Jefferson County and Bullitt County schools. They primarily tech at their high school alma mater, Louisville Male High School, with both concert and competitive groups.
Luke looks forward to working with the LLP as a teacher, arranging future pieces for the groups, and being a diverse resource to the Leopards’ crew. Along with the Leopards, Luke loves exploring all things local in their community, checking out friends in their upcoming gigs, hiking, and having a coffee in their left hand with a keyboard mallet in their right!
Pete, ensemble director
Pete Jones, a native of Concord, NH, embarked on his musical journey by immersing himself in the world of jazz under the guidance of mentors Tim Gilmore and Dave Tonkin. They instilled in Pete the value of attentive listening and understanding the ensemble as a cohesive whole.
During his philosophy studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, Pete delved into the realm of African music. This new venture taught him that sometimes, one’s ears may not be attuned to grasping the entirety of an ensemble.
Under the guidance of Jay Johnson, Pete was introduced to West African music, primarily focusing on the rhythms of the Ewe people. He also explored Afro-Cuban music and various other rhythmic traditions, broadening his musical horizons. This diverse exposure, guided by Jay, instilled in Pete a deep appreciation for adopting multiple perspectives as a learning approach. It taught him to ask, “Where is the One?” Understanding that there are as many “ones” and pulses as there are perspectives one is open to hearing. Sometimes, learning requires hearing things another way.
Dani, ensemble director
Dani Markham began playing with The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists as an 8 year old, where she discovered her love for music. Today, Markham is one of the most daring and inventive percussionists working today, and is in high demand across the pop and contemporary music world, as well as the New York theatre scene. As a touring member of influential bands Tune Yards and Grammy-winner Childish Gambino (Donald Glover), Dani has played all around the world. Recent stage appearances include the 2018 Grammy Music Awards with Childish Gambino, onstage drumming for Sonya Tayeh’s acclaimed ‘You’ll Still Call Me By My Name’, and as a featured guest on Saturday Night Live. Markham is a Latin Percussion and Musser endorsed artist, and is a graduate from the acclaimed Frost School of Music of The University of Miami.
Dani works with our high school kids, our Studio Leopards, where she shares her extensive knowledge of music production with the high schoolers, many of whom have been in our program for 10 or more years.
Allison, ensemble director
Allison Cross is a multi-genre artist and musician. She is a Board-Certified Music Therapist, a business owner, a trombonist, a DJ, and a producer. She has played trombone since age 12 and graduated from University of Louisville’s music therapy program in 2010. She is the current owner of Restorative Sound, LLC which exists to address the physical, psychological, cognitive and social needs of individuals in Louisville.
Allison has had the pleasure of helping to launch and develop a few of the extra curricular music programs in Louisville including AMPED, Girls Rock (GRL), Restorative Sound, and is now working with the Middle School Ensemble in The Leopards. As of 2022, GRL has rebranded to Out Loud Louisville, of which Allison is the current Program Director.
Allison enjoys building friendships and playing opportunities with people from all walks of life. She’s Looking forward to building her knowledge with percussion and enjoying spending time with the Leopards crew!
Yeshima (they/them) is passionate about drumming, teaching, and strengthening the community through Community Drum Circles and group drumming playshops. An educator and percussionist of 26 plus years, they are currently self-employed at DrumSmart LLC, where they provide group drumming opportunities in world music using World Music Pedagogy, Drum Circle Facilitation to support social and emotional learning and professional development opportunities for music educators. Yeshima is pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Kentucky as a lifelong learner. Their research interests are social and emotional learning and group drumming. Yeshima is a certified Remo Health Rhythms Facilitator, Beat The Odds Facilitator, Village Music Circles trainee, Tam Tam Mandingue Apprentice, World Music Drumming Level 1, World Music Pedagogy, Dalcroze Level 1, and has received their Orff Levels 1-3 at the University of Kentucky. A recent addition to the Percussive Arts Society Interactive Drum Committee, Yeshima is excited to share their talents as a researcher, author, and editor. In addition, they are on the Remo Health and Wellness Roster as a featured drum circle facilitator.
Yeshima earned a Master’s in Music Performance from Rutgers University in 2001. Yeshima studied with She-e Wu, marimba virtuoso, while at Rutgers. As a performer, Yeshima has performed with the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, Victoria Symphony, Louisville Ballet Orchestra, Louisville Pipe Band, Sacred Winds Ensemble, Athena Brass Band, Fountain City Brass Band, Aseye African Drum Ensemble, Derby Dinner Playhouse, and community theatres to name a few.
Yeshima’s sole purpose is to share the spirit of the drum with students and support their colleagues by sharing innovative music lessons at music conferences, community events, and online. In addition, they are the host of the Power of Percussion Podcast, where they explore the many facets of how percussion can be used to heal the body, mind, and spirit. Yeshima is a published author at F-flat Books. Their eBook, It’s Drum O’ Clock, has received excellent reviews and comes highly recommended. When Yeshima is not drumming or passioning, you can find them tending the forest at Beech Hill Heaven with their cat Giovanni, staring at trees, or listening to nature’s symphony of sound. Follow them at DrumSmart LLC on social media or www.drumsmartllc.com.
Gregory, teaching artist
Gregory Acker is a teaching and performing artist who is an instructor for our Leopard Learner program at King Elementary. With a classical and jazz flute background, including early jazz studies with Jamey Aebersold and flute lessons with Francis Fuge (LO), he branched into saxophone playing in jazz bands at Oberlin College, studying with Floyd “Candy” Johnson and Wendell Logan.
After college, he joined the Peace Corps for two assignments (Morocco and Togo), which inspired him to develop music in community settings back home, to learn to build homemade instruments, and to delve further into the “world winds.” The journey (including study-tours in Kerala, South India and Java and Bali, Indonesia), eventually led to an MA in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University (CT), as a graduate assistant and beginning flute instructor for Tanjore Viswanathan (South Indian flute) and Pak I.M. Harjito (Javanese suling).
In addition to flute and alto flute, he plays saxes ranging from bari to soprano (with a fun stop at C-melody along the way), digeridoos, bamboo flutes, and panpipes. He performs with the Andean fusion group Yapa, and also with Kuvebo West African Drum & Dance.
Rafa, drum specialist
Brazilian drummer, Rafael Freitas, started playing the drums at 12 years old. He became a professional musician in Brazil at 17. Since then he’s spent over 10 years playing in various bands, working as a studio musician, and teaching music to people of all ages and experiences.
He moved to Kentucky in 2017 and started working with the Leopards in 2022.
“My favorite part of teaching at the Leopards is to see the excitement when the kids learn something new and how much fun they have playing music.”
Mikayla, teaching volunteer
Mikayla is a teaching volunteer who assists with our Spotlight on the Groove group. She first joined The Leopards as a member of our Beginner group when she was 7 years old. She graduated to our Advanced group, our Steel Leopards, and is now a member of our Studio Leopard group.
Mikayla joined her elementary school band on clarinet and continued playing throughout middle school where she was awarded 1st chair. She is currently a sophomore at Jeffersontown High School where she participates in concert band sitting 1st chair.
Mikayla is also an award winning archer on her high school’s archery team. While in middle school, she accompanied her team to a national archery competition and received a 4th place trophy.
Zero, teaching volunteer
Zero is a volunteer teacher who helps instruct our Spotlight on the Groove group. They joined The Leopards as a Leopards Lite member themselves when they were only 7 years old, they’re now 16! They graduated to our Beginners group after a year, then graduated again to our Advanced group. Sam is now one of the oldest members of our Steel Leopards.
Sam joined their elementary school violin club in kindergarten, and later did choir all throughout middle school. This was thanks to them being drawn to performing music. They currently attend school at Atherton High School.
Outside of Leopards they are a part of many clubs at their school, including Chess club and Dungeons & Dragons club. Though, while they do enjoy spending time with their friends, they’re always happy to just spend time in their room listening to music or reading.
Tank, teaching volunteer
Shawn Stinson, AKA Tank, helps instruct our Beginner Leopard group, concentrating on drum parts as well as serving as a conductor. Tank has participated in our Leopards Lite group, our Middle School Ensemble, our World Drumming Friday group, and is currently in our Advanced performing group. Tank is a member of our small ensemble, E.T.C, The Band, where serves as one of the arrangers in addition to performing.
Tank attended Lincoln Performing Arts Elementary School and is currently a 6th grader at Western Middle School for the Arts, where his major is band and his minor is choir. Tank is also an active musician at his church, Second Baptist Church of Fairfield, where he plays drum set, organ, and piano in the church band.
Outside of music, Tank enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with his family of 10.
Cash, teaching volunteer
Cash Brighton Doyle helps instruct our Beginner group, focusing on keyboard and drums. Cash has been with Leopards since 2019 and is currently in the Advanced performing group.
Cash is in 6th grade at Western Middle School for the Arts. As a 2nd grader, Cash performed a drum solo for his school pep rally. Prior to Leopards, Cash participated in Rock 101 at School of Rock and currently studies Jazz Piano under Professor Todd Hildreth at Bellarmine University.
In addition to music, Cash enjoys spending time with his family, hanging out with friends, gaming, playing basketball, rooting for LaMelo Ball and the Hornets, and collecting NBA cards and jerseys.
Cash is a member of our small ensemble, E.T.C, The Band, where he is not only a performer, but one of the arrangers for the group.
Meg Samples Morrow hails from Mt. Sterling, KY and started working with the Leopards in November of 2008. She graduated from the University of Louisville Jamey Aebersold Jazz Program in 2010 with a Bachelors of Arts in Jazz drum set.
Meg co-directed the Advanced and Beginner groups. Her main focus with the program was arranging and drum set instruction.
She is currently based in Portland, OR where she is the on air host at KMHD Jazz Radio and is the executive director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. She still works with the Leopards at our summer camp and always stops by when she comes back home to visit.
Mason, camp teacher
A native of Louisville, KY and a graduate of DuPont Manual/Youth Performing School, Mason F. Allen’s love for music manifested itself early in his life. He is an accomplished percussionist, and a Louisville Leopard Percussionist alum. He is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and is currently employed as an audio engineer/music producer by Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, California. He also does work for Roc Nation. His musical accomplishments include, RIAA Certified Platinum selling single for Roddy Ricch, Every Season (recording engineer); RIAA Certified Gold selling album for Roddy Ricch Feed Tha Streets 2 (recording engineer); and released his first EP in 2018 entitled Forrest EP Vol. 1: Floral Forrest. Mason has been an instructor for the Leopards summer camp for 7 years and enjoys coaching young aspiring Leopards. Mason says, “I enjoy giving back to the kids. They inspire me!”.
Aaron Klausing, a graduate of Oldham County High School (1999), completed his high school education with a variety of musical recognitions. While receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in Music Education (2004), Aaron was involved in the University of Kentucky’s percussion ensemble, orchestra, symphonic band, marching band, pep band, and steel band. During the summer of 2000, he marched with the Southwind Drum and Bugle Corp and has played in the Americana Folk band, the Rainjunkies®, from Lexington, Kentucky. Aaron has also performed at the PASIC, KMEA, and with the Appalachian Brass Orchestra. In addition to his performances, he has arranged and composed music for various middle and high schools in Kentucky.
Aaron attended the University of Louisville’s school of music where he graduated with his master’s degree in music education in 2010. While attending UofL, Aaron served as the principal percussionist in the University Wind Ensemble.
Aaron joined the Leopards in January of 2008 as a teacher and arranger, and also started The Steel Leopards in 2009 as lead teacher and arranger. Aaron currently teaches band in Owensboro, KY but still helps with the Leopards.
Board of Directors
- Tricia Williams, president
- Laura Wheeler, vice president
- Tamuna Loladze, treasurer
- Taylor Garver, secretary
- John Scruton, legal
- Adam Loewy, at large
- Kristin Wingfeld, at large
- Colleen Conley, at large
- Diane Downs, founder
- Caroline Taylor