Warren’s ‘Voice’ Dennis Drummond meets students

Warren native Dennis Drummond, left, who competed on NBC’s “The Voice,” talks with seventh-grader Byron Partin, 13, while packing up his gear Thursday at Lincoln PK-8 School. Drummond performed at Lincoln, McGuffey and Jefferson schools Thursday and is scheduled to visit Willard PK-8 and Warren G. Harding High School today. Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple

WARREN — All of the schools that Dennis Drummond attended growing up have been torn down, but his love for Warren City Schools stands tall.

The musician, who appeared on the fall 2017 season of the NBC reality series “The Voice,” came home from Nashville to perform at all five schools in the district. He played McGuffey, Lincoln and Jefferson PK-8 schools on Thursday and is scheduled to visit Willard PK-8 and Warren G. Harding High School today.

“I’m a 2008 Warren G. Harding graduate,” he told students who filled the gymnasium at Lincoln. “Before that, I was a Turner Middle School graduate and before that a McKinley Elementary graduate. I’ve been exactly where y’all are. I’m a proud product of Warren City Schools. I played in the marching band. I did Lego robotics. I was on the swim team. I’ve been through all of that, and I’m glad to come back and see some beautiful faces.”

Drummond, 27, played the Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” (which he sang on “The Voice”) and other songs and talked about his experiences growing up here.

Drummond said the “diverse stew of people” he went to school with prepared him for life beyond Warren. He graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and has lived in Nashville since 2012, backing other artists on guitar as well as playing solo gigs. He has bonded with people over music when that was the only thing they had in common.

“Art is a leveler,” he said. “It evens everything out, no matter what differences you may have.”

Any Given Child, an initiative created by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, arranged for Drummond’s appearance. AGC uses existing arts programs in schools and area arts organizations to integrate the arts into the curriculum for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Warren is the smallest school district selected by the Washington, D.C.-based organization and the only one in Ohio.

Drummond encouraged the students to chase their dreams, saying that if he had a nickel for everyone who told him he couldn’t make a living playing guitar, he wouldn’t need to make a living as a musician.

“If you’re creative, embrace that,” he said. “Be weird. There’s no problem with being weird. People like weirdos. Be as weird as you want to be and take it wherever you want.”

Several students got to ask Drummond questions after the assembly.

He said fellow “Voice” competitor Mitchell Lee, with whom he performed Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones,” was the person he had the most fun with on the show, and he described guest mentor Kelly Clarkson as a “sweetheart” who made him feel at ease.

A few grabbed a quick photo with the 6-foot-8 singer and marveled at his height. When one boy asked him after the set if he played basketball, Drummond told him he had a “3-inch vertical leap” and he’s much better with a guitar than a basketball.

A few students got a chance to play roadie, helping him load in and pack up his gear before heading to Jefferson PK-8 School. Seventh grader Byron Partin, 13, showed off the guitar picks Drummond gave him for helping.

“I helped him set up and he ate lunch with me,” Partin said.