Drumming Up a Storm in Louisville

14-15 group

The following information is taken from the Louisville Leopard’s site. This fabulous organization has earned a great deal of attention across the city for it’s fun and lively performances.

The Louisville Leopard Percussionists are a performing ensemble comprised of 60+ student musicians ages 7-14, who reside in 26 different Louisville zip codes and attend 48 different schools in and around Louisville, Kentucky.

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.

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.

Diane, founder and artistic director

Diane Downs is the founder and artistic director 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, directed that group for ten years and then created The Louisville Leopard Percussionists, a non-profit, community based group.  She also assists the “We Got The Beat” percussion ensemble in Fresno, CA and serves as a consultant to numerous elementary percussion ensemble programs around the United States.  Diane has been a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School System since 1988, currently teaching Arts & Humanities at Norton Elementary.

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, and the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Living the Vision Award.

Brittany, assistant director

Brittany Lee has lived in Louisville all of her life.  She has the distinction of being an original member of the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists when it formed in 1993.  While in the Leopards, Brittany had the honor of performing at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort, the Kentucky and Indiana State Music Educator’s Association conventions, the Atlanta Band and Orchestra convention and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Orlando, FL.

After her time with the Leopards, Brittany continued to hone her percussion skills performing in ensembles at Noe Middle School, the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS), and Bellarmine University.  During her high school years, Brittany was a member of all-county and all-state bands and performed with the YPAS Percussion Ensemble at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).

Since 2004, Brittany has served as assistant director for the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.  In the fall of 2009, she helped create the experience group, Leopards Lite.  Since its inception, Leopards Lite has doubled in size and is comprised of children from approximately 20 different elementary schools in the Louisville-Metro area.

Brittany has two children, Zachary and Zoe.  The birth of her daughter inspired her to create her own business, M2Z Designs, which focuses on children’s apparel and graphic design.

Kelsey, assistant director

Kelsey Lee was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky.  She picked up her first pair of sticks and mallets at the early age of 5 and has yet to put them down. A member of the prestigious local group previously known as the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists from kindergarten to 6th grade, her tenure included performances at the Kentucky and Indiana State Music Educators Association Conventions, the Atlanta International Band and Orchestra Convention, the Kentucky chapter of the Percussive Arts Society Day of Percussion, and the 1999 International Association for Jazz Education Convention in New Orleans.

After aging out of the Fabulous Leopards, Kelsey continued her percussion studies at DuPont Manual High School and the Youth Performing Arts School focusing her skills on the marimba, snare drum, and Latin percussion studies.  She became a member of the YPAS Percussion Ensemble which led to her performing at the 2004 Percussive Arts Society International Convention and the 2007 Bands of America conference in Indianapolis.  She also participated in all-county and all-state bands during her middle and high school years and earned distinguished ratings for her performances at the annual Kentucky Music Educators’ Association convention.  Outside of her formal education, Kelsey was an active musician around town, in churches, traveled and played with the University of Louisville pep band, and took private percussion lessons from the age of seven to nineteen.

Kelsey is an assistant director for the Leopards and co-leads the beginner group.  She assists in the direction of the Leopards’ experience group, Leopards Lite, and co-directs the Steel Leopards.  Kelsey is endorsed by Toca Percussion Company and Sabian Cymbals and has performed with world-renowned musicians including CJ Vanston, Michael Fitzpatrick, Victor Mendoza, Dani Markham, Dan Dorff, Jerry Steinholtz, Hannah Ford Welton, Louie Bellson, Ruben Alvarez, and Ndugu Chancler. She had the pleasure of opening for Carlene Carter. Kelsey has also opened for Bruno Mars for the Congo 2014 Festival along with kicking off the 2014 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards.

When she’s not busy molding the minds of young musicians and performing, Kelsey enjoys hula hooping, fire juggling, and saving lives at Lakeside Swim Club. A graduate from Indiana University Southeast with a degree in elementary education, she volunteers for the WHAS Crusade for Children while holding and teaching drum classes to non-profit organizations. In addition to teaching Leopards, she serves as a guest performer for many local musicians with various musical styles, ranging from Latin to Rock to R&B and more. Kelsey’s most recent venture has been playing percussion in a new upcoming variety band, Jolly Hammurabi.

Meg, assistant director

Meg Samples hails from Mt. Sterling, KY and has been working with the MegLeopards since 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.

Her current percussion projects include drumming with an eclectic jazz quartet Squeeze-bot, indie rock group The Deloreans, Hip-hop jazz fusion Citizens United, indie-folk group Bridege-19, electro-pop trio Big Momma Thorazine,  and a throw-back eight piece ensemble called The Dixieland Solution.

Meg co-directs the Steel Leopards with Price McGuffey and Kelsey Lee, and also assists with the Advanced and Beginners Leopards group.   Her main focus with the program has been arranging and drum set instruction.

Outside of the Leopards, Meg teaches private drum lessons, and performs independently for local churches, businesses, on street curbs, and anywhere else rhythm can be found.  She is supremely thankful to have found such a wonderful family in the Leopards.


Price, assistant director

Louisville native Price McGuffey has been lucky to be involved with music his whole life. At the age of four, he graduated from pots and pans to a toy drum set. With his love for music guiding him, he joined The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in their last year before they made the switch to the community-based group they are today. Price participated in over 40 performances with the Leopards including performances alongside artists Joe Morello, Zoro, and Ruben Alvarez and he was featured in the HBO documentary “The Leopards Take Manhattan: The Little Band That Roared”.

Price is currently pursuing a Jazz Performance degree on drum set at the University of Louisville studying under Michael Hyman. His most recent recorded work is the album “Don’t Let Your Meatloaf” by the band Wilder Stallions. Outside of UofL ensembles, you can find Price on the weekends either performing in the house band at the Roux Louisville restaurant, elsewhere with The Big Quiet, drumming for Your Friendly Neighborhood Big Band, or on some other project that tickles his fancy. He is very happy to be co-directing the Leopards Lite and Steel Leopard groups with such a fantastic group of teachers.

Aaron, assistant director

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 an assistant 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.

If you would like to become a member, go to