In spite of the chilly weather, Genesis Entertainment, a group of warm hearted ambitious and enterprising young people hit the street wowing Austin residents with its unique renditions of familiar tunes.
Most weekends Andre Flowers, Jontarius Lashley, Issac Allen, Deanne Noland, and Justin and Kendren Davis can be found playing on “The Eway,” a.k.a. Central Avenue at the Eisenhower Expressway. These young street musicians, who were recruited by Flowers and trained in his mother’s garage, are performing as a way out of a troubled and crime ridden community, and to provide younger musicians with mentors and positive influences in their lives.
“We are out here to raise money for our program to buy (drum) heads and sticks,” said Flowers, referring to G2, the nonprofit drum line which is partly funded by the Mildred Frank Foundation.
“We get a lot of jobs from being out here on the Eway. This is advance practice,” added Flowers, who also works as a daycare worker.
Genesis Entertainment, now in its third year, is a complete entertainment group featuring musicians, singers, and dancers. The group performs at football games, children’s parties and private events. Providing all types of music and entertainment, the group has an impressive list of clients, including Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.
“We provide complete entertainment,” Flowers said. “We’ve got drums, trumpets, and tubas. We’ve got everything we need to make it in the music business.”
When I caught up with the group this past Sunday, in-between playing, members of the group Ð most of whom are Austin area high school students Ð spoke with me about what motivates them and their professional aspirations.
Deanne Noland, a Manley High School student and the only female, is in charge of collecting the donations from the passing cars.
“I’ve been playing the drums and bass for three years now,” she said. “I do this because I want to sing and make my own CDs. What keeps me motivated is that it helps the kids stay off the street. Instead of being in jail or something like that, they are out here playing drums.
“When I was a little kid, my mom told me to ‘go out and do something with your life and make me proud,’ and that’s what I am doing.”
Trumpet player Isaac Allen said what keeps him playing outside in the cold is his love of music. “I just like to play,” said Allen, who is finishing up his training as a medical technician.
Jontarius Lashley, a football player at Austin High School, hopes to play professional football, but if not, he hopes for a career in music. Lashley said he’s motivated by “the people who believe in me, the ones who believe I can make something of myself.” Lashley added, “Young people should get involved (in Genesis) because it’s fun. It’s something that can help them become somebody in life. It’s something they can take time and learn and go to college and learn more.”
Brothers Kendren and Justin Davis joined the group together. Justin says he’s with the group because it keeps him off the streets and away from negativity. Kendren says he just likes playing the drums.
“Every time I hear the drums,” Kendren said, “it just motivates me to get my stuff up.” Kendren, an Austin VOISE Academy student, is hoping to join a professional drum line, and if not a drum line, he plans to become a Chicago Police officer.
Flowers said Genesis Entertainment is always looking for more young people to join the group. Even the chilly air couldn’t put a damper on these young people’s enthusiasm. “It’s about mentoring and giving back,” Flowers said. “That’s why we do it.”