Founded in the fall of 1990 by Slayton and Linda Thompson, the Grant Wood All-City Drum Corps was a staple for all of Cedar Rapids for over 20 years.
Today, the Jane Boyd Percussion Conservatory carries on the values and rich tradition started by Slayton and continued on by his son, current director Eric Thompson.
The program is available to the public for children from third through fifth grades. Lessons are held each Tuesday and Thursday between 4:30 and 6 p.m. at the Jane Boyd Community House. Lessons sessions run is 8-week intervals. Each session cost $25 per 8-week session.
Payments of cash, check and money order may be made payable to Jane Boyd Community House.
Registration and consistent attendance is required to participate. For more information, contact Megan Isenberg at 319-366-0431 ext. 2608.
Explore the history of the group below, as told by Eric Thompson.
Founder and director Slayton grew up with music and regularly boasts "the drums were something that I liked & I saw them as a way to overcome personal obstacles, both social and academic."
Thompson marched many years in his local drum corps, The Phantom Regiment, playing almost every instrument in the percussion family. He won the Illinois State Percussion Championship and after high school enlisted in the army.
Eventually, he met and married Sharon Ullrick and the couple had a son, Eric, who became a talented musician himself.
Inspired by his son Eric's success in the Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps in Cedar Rapids and Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps from Bloomington, Indiana, Slayton wanted to create a simialr program for his own community.
Kids would come to the basement window of the Thompson home to listen to Eric practice the drums as a child and Slayton thought "why not share his gift(s) with the neighborhood?"
Slayton started with the Cedar Rapids Community School District in 1973, becoming its first black building engineer. He was given drums and scoured the schools for drums being thrown out and refurbished them. He taught elementary and middle school-aged students the basics of drumming and marching after school.
Nothing was "formal," but there was a dedication and a sense of belonging that emerged amongst the neighborhood kids.
Soon the group settled on its name, "The Grant Wood All-City Drum Corps," and had a more permanent location at Grant Wood Elementary School. Practice was held every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:45 to 5 p.m. The group grew to include a flag line.
Slayton, Linda and parent volunteers shuttled the group statewide to perform for county fairs, street festivals and senior living centers. They regularly helped to open countless legislative sessions at the state capital in Des Moines.
Just seven years after its inception, The Grant Wood All-City Drum Corps represented the state of Iowa in the second inaugural parade for President Bill Clinton in 1997 in Washington, D.C.
Throughout its tenure, the Grant Wood All-City Drum Corps remained committed to academic excellence. They incorporated study tables during rehearsals for students needing extra academic assistance, and used music to communicate with all races, creeds, colors and ethnicities.
The corps also took part in community outreach projects, including reading with seniors, raking leaves, shoveling walks and collecting food for homeless shelters. Students who aged out of the program would regularly return to guide the younger generation.
The list of public performances for the group is interminable and its continued impact upon the Cedar Rapids community was positively evident. However, with Slayton’s retirement from the school district in 2011, the Grant Wood All-City Drum Corps came to an end.
2017 saw the emergence of the second generation of Slayton’s vision with the creation of the Jane Boyd Percussion Conservatory. Directed by his son Eric, and mired in the rich tradition established by his father for over two decades, Eric and the administrative team at Jane Boyd Community House have re-introduced positive life lessons through the use of marching and percussion instruction with Slayton's consultancy.
Grounded in self-respect, personal responsibility, academic achievement, and wholesome fun, the drum corps has grown from a small afternoon activity that was “just something to do until going home after school,” to a nationally-recognized entity, to the quality program it is today.
Eric M. Thompson is the Percussion Director and Community Program Coordinator for the Jane Boyd Drum Corps. He also serves as the Director for The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success, who's goal is to instill pride in and understanding of African American culture as a tool to encourage academic achievement and positive behaviors toward post-secondary matriculation and produtive citizenship. Holding a Master Educators License, Thompson is a certified 5-12 Social Sciences Educator.
Thompson has had an active drum & bugle corps career, having served as a percussion instructor with Blue Stars, corps director for Coastal Surge & percussion caption head cor Genesis. Eric marched with Emerald Knights from Cedar Rapids, world champions Star of Indiana from Bloomington, Indiana & The University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band. Additionally, as a clinician, Thompson travels the country as a marching percussion and drum-set specialist and also fronts his own group "The Eric Thompson Quintet."
Eric holds an Undergraduate Diploma with Distinction in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory of Music, Bachelor of Arts in African-American History and Political Science from Northeastern University, and a Master of Arts in Arts & Humanities with a Specialization in the Teaching of Social Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also endorsed by Vic Firth Sticks and serves on their Education Team as a Marching Percussion Specialist.
Thompson has also performed in, instructed and wrote for the University of Iowa Hawkeye Marking Band and the All-American College Band at Disneyland.
He is the founder of "Thompson's Drum Pad," which provides the opportunity to achieve distinction in the specialized areas of marching percussion and drum-set. He is also a certified educator and has taught economics, American and world history, and government.
Our mission is to enhance the academic, emotional and social wellbeing of children and families in our diverse community with programs focused on developing successful and productive adults.
You can make a difference by partnering with Jane Boyd. Contact us to find out how.