Jamarquis Allen and Jaylen Scott preparing for their performance at Lollapalooza.. Credit: Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago

GARFIELD PARK — Jaylen Scott has played drums his whole life, often entertaining his mom and sister at home.

Now, Scott, 16, and other young West Siders are gearing up to play the biggest audience of their lives: Lollapalooza.

BandWith Chicago’s WestDance Team and Hope Jr. Drumline at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services,a youth development group with a center in East Garfield Park, will open the Bud Light Seltzer stage 12:30 p.m. Sunday with a drumline and dance performance. They are performing as part of the Year of Chicago Music program organized by the city’s cultural affairs department.

The music and dance show will be a tribute to the city, with a set list including songs by Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Joey Purp.

Scott is mostly self-taught but started formal lessons this month to prepare for the massive audience.

“I’m a little bit nervous and a little bit excited,” Scott said. “I want them to feel good. I want them to feel pumped and have a lot of energy.”

Giving young people a stage to be recognized for their talents can be life-changing, said Deanna Hallagan, director of Hope Jr. Young people need more opportunities for their hard work to be validated and to see possibilities for themselves in the arts, she said.

“It doesn’t always get recognized that there’s so many talented kids across Chicago. We’re just a reflection of a lot of Chicago,” she said. “There’s so many teens who bring their best every day to whatever they’re working on: poetry, music, dance. There’s such a high level of thought and insight from kids.”


The young performers prepared for their Lolla performance with the support of the Chicago West Community Music Center and BandWith Chicago, an organization that offers free music lessons at Marillac. They’ve rehearsed three hours a day, five days a week, said BandWith President Annie Palomino.

“They recognize the gravity of this moment. It’s been incredible to see how much they put into it. It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished. I know they feel it, and they get to share it. … It helps them understand what they’re capable of,” Palomino said.

That amount of practice has had a big impact on their performance abilities.

“The instructors are amazing in the way they got us to do this in just three or four weeks,” said Yadhira Rau, 14. “Everybody’s really been working together.”

The opportunity to perform at Chicago’s biggest music festival is “an experience I’ll never forget,” 16-year-old drummer Jamarquis Allen said.

Allen taught himself to play drums when he was 3 years old after seeing the film “Drumline.” When he was told he’d perform at Lollapalooza with his bandmates, he couldn’t believe it, he said.

Allen had done exciting performances as part of the Hope Jr. drumline, including a parade with a large audience, but “nothing amounts to what we’re about to do,” he said.

He wants people at the festival “to know who we are and where we come from. I want to show them a lot of us have talent that has yet to be discovered,” Allen said. 

Rau said she hopes the songs will inspire pride and joy in the audience.

“I just hope that we’re able to get them up, dancing and happy, just so that they can enjoy it,” Rau said.

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