Cory Lee wants all youth at the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City to learn dedication.
“You’ve got to practice; you’ve got to rehearse,” he said. “Practice and rehearsal are two different things. You practice at home; you rehearse when you’re with your group. The more you practice, the better you get.”
For more than a year, Cory and
wife Endia have taken in more than 40 children as part of the
Boys & Girls Club Blue Diamond Drumline. The members have attached themselves to the family and become a family of their own, Endia said.
When the members aren’t rehearsing or performing, they are spending q u a l i t ytimeattheLees’ home.
“I had to adjust to it at first,” Endia said. “But after a while, I figured it’s something they aren’t getting at home to want to be over at our house.”
Cory, Endia and their children moved to Jefferson City from St. Louis in summer 2017. After learning about the drumline program, Cory came in as a volunteer.
“I wasn’t looking for any payment,” Cory said. “I do stuff out of my heart for kids.”
His passion for music and youth was overflowing, said Stephanie Johnson, executive director of the club. After two months, she offered him the club’s music, sports and recreation director position.
“I was so impressed not only with Cory’s skill to teach the kids and connect, but his mentorship,” Johnson said.
The Boys & Girls Club offers a number of programs at no charge to local youth, Johnson said. The organization receives funding from the United Way of Central Missouri as a partner agency.
The club has provided opportunities for the entire Lee family. Their sons, Cory Lee Jr., 14, and D’Monte Lee, 12, are on the club basketball team. JaMila, 11, and JaNiece, 7, participate in other club programs.
The three older children are in the drumline. The students rehearse 10 hours a week, and some wish it was more, Cory said.
“If it was up to the kids, they would practice every day,” Cory said, chuckling. “They want to practice more than I want them to practice. They motivate me more than anything. I was the one motivating them; now it’s to the point where they’re motivating me. They want to learn new stuff. They want to try new things. They want to travel, but we’re going to have to do something about it.”
Cory’s Christmas wish is to get the students to the battle of the bands in Memphis this spring. The group would need a sponsor to get there.
Drumline is more than a fun activity that keeps the students engaged after school, Cory said. The skills, determination and dedication could get them further in life than they know.
“I have a goal for them,” Cory said. “My goal is for each of them to learn how to read music and get to college. Coming from where I came from, I didn’t graduate, I didn’t get to experience college or get to experience a college band like everyone else I went to school with. I don’t want the kids to miss out on that.”
Music and sports are tools; however, his passion for the club extends beyond that. Cory often drives the club’s van to transport students to the club and activities.
“There are kids that aren’t in sports or in music that look up to me just by me being at the door to welcome them in,” Cory said. “Every day I want to be at that door, but I’m such a jack-of-all-trades that I’m used everywhere … wherever they need me, I’m here.”
The organization will soon add music production, which Cory will lead.
“It seems like everything is coming together for me,” Cory said. “Stuff that I’ve been wanting to do, this job has helped me get to that point, so I’m forever grateful for it.”