DeKalb alumni perform with Beyoncé

Former Southwest DeKalb band director Don P. Roberts, center, made it possible for Rashaad Horne, far left, and other Southwest DeKalb alumni to perform with Beyoncé.

DeKalb County is known for having some of the best musical talent in the nation, and that talent was on display during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Fourteen alums from DeKalb high schools performed alongside R&B artist and superstar Beyoncé at the 10-day festival in Indio, Calif. They represented Cedar Grove, Clarkston, M.L. King, Southwest DeKalb and Stephenson high school. They were a part of history as Beyoncé was the first Black woman to headline the festival.

Beyoncé’s performance was based on the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) experience that featured a halftime-like show with a marching band and majorettes, and a Greek step show.

One of the alums, 2005 graduate Rashaad Horne, spoke to The Champion about his experience playing cymbals with the drumline. Horne has toured with Drumline Live, an international touring group based on the (HBCU) marching band tradition. The tour was created by former Southwest DeKalb band director Don P. Roberts, who also served as executive band consultant for the movie Drumline.

Horne said it was Roberts who called and asked him to take about a month and a half off from work.

Horne teaches at Thomasville Heights Elementary School, a charter school in Atlanta.

“At first, I was going to say no because that was a long time to take off, but I’m glad I said yes,” Horne said. “We didn’t find out who it was for or what it was for until we got [to California].”

Horne said he was excited when he found out he would be performing with Beyoncé at Coachella.

“I was a little shocked initially, but once we saw her in rehearsal and actually got to see her work, it was very intriguing and interesting in how hard she worked and how much time, money and effort she put in,” he said.

This wasn’t the first time Horne has performed with a major musical artist. The Florida A&M University graduate was a member of the university’s band when it performed with Prince at the Super Bowl in 2007.

“I actually helped put that show together, so that was a big trademark for me as well,” Horne said. “I’ve worked with Stevie Wonder and Celine Dion, but out of all of those [artists] and as far as exposure—camera time and networking—[Beyoncé] is definitely on the top. This is definitely at the top of my resume.”

Horne, who was also in the movie Drumline, said they rehearsed for more than two months in preparation for the show. He said the first rehearsal was intense.

“Eleven-hour days, six days a week—we had breaks, but it was very intense, very professional and [Beyoncé’s crew] was very receiving,” he said. “[Beyoncé] has a nice spirit and that trickled down to her crew. It was a great feeling to be in a room with a lot of people who toured with many artists. They were some of the best people I’ve ever worked with.”

When Horne found out the theme of the performance was an HBCU tribute, he was all for it.

“I thought it would be a great idea because down South, band is really hot. [However], the last couple of years it [has been] holding on to its last limb as far as popularity and interest among students,” he said.

“I think [the show] is going to enhance enrollment of music education around the nation.”
He said the crowd, which was majority White, seemed to enjoy the performance.

“They were lit,” he said. “I think it was [lit] more because of her…but they received it quite well. The crowd’s response was like a roar. I’ve never seen that many people in one spot waiting on one person. It was crazy.

“Being around [Beyoncé], feeding off her energy, being right next to her when she first comes up, it was really cool,” Horne said. “The energy I received doing my solo with the cymbals was really cool. I didn’t think I was going to get that much camera time, but I did.”

Horne said if Beyoncé does the same type of show for the On the Run II tour, he hopes he is selected to tour with her.

“If not, most likely I’ll be touring with Drumline Live this summer and continue to teach in the fall and wait for the next big gig,” he said.

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