Student drums up a little stardom

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DURHAM —It’s a long way from Durham to Atlanta with no money for gas and a gap before payday.


But that didn’t stop Marcus Joyner from chasing his dream. He just had to get creative about it.


Last month, the N.C. Central University student heard from his former band director at Warren County High School. A “Drumline” sequel was in the works for VH1. Did he want to be in it?


“Without any hesitation, I just said, ‘Yes,’” said Joyner, 22. “When the first ‘Drumline’ came out in 2002, I was in fourth grade. I had just started playing drums. The movie sparked my attention even more. I knew if ‘Drumline 2’ came out, I gotta be in it.”


First, he had to audition. To audition, he had to make the trip to Georgia. But his paycheck from Food Lion wouldn’t come until days after the audition.


“I was broke,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to get down there. It’s a six-hour drive. I had no money for a bus. I was giving myself excuses not to go.”


His cousin told him: “Just go for what you know, if you think you can do it.”


So Joyner hauled his snare drum through downtown Durham and Chapel Hill, playing for cash donations in front of Major the bronze bull in CCB Plaza and along the sidewalks of Franklin Street.


That effort, plus contributions from friends and family through PayPal, made his trip possible.


Now he’s in Atlanta for the rest of June, working with professional actors on “Drumline 2: A New Beat.” They’re down-to-earth folks, he said.


Back home in Durham, he’s part of the NCCU Marching Sound Machine’s drumline. On the movie set, he’s tutoring stars on the fine art of percussion.


“I’m having fun teaching them to play,” he said.


It’s not clear yet whether viewers will see more than Joyner’s hands playing drums in the movie, but he seems satisfied with the experience so far.


After summer, he plans to return to NCCU to finish his education.


“Hopefully, I’m coming back to Atlanta to start my career off,” he said. “I’m doing a lot of networking down here, seeing what I can accomplish. Atlanta is the place to be, the Hollywood of the South.”


Taylor Whitehead is the high school band director who shared the opportunity with Joyner.


“From the beginning, Marcus was a hard worker and passionate about playing the drums,” Whitehead said. “We recorded a few YouTube videos of him. Very early on, he became a local celebrity and had a pretty big following.”


Joyner was part of three national championship drumline teams in 2006, 2007 and 2009.


“A lot of students he competed with back then, they’re playing with him now,” Whitehead said.


The effort Joyner put into turning his dream into reality is testament to his character, the band director said.


“Whatever you want in life is worth working for,” Whitehead said. “This shows you can go out and get it.”


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