Stories that inspired in 2012 | Salem

The music of life

Richard Pingree (right, on bass) and Levaughn Fussell (backround, on drums) play during a music session at the Plummer Home for Boys in Salem.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Richard Pingree (right, on bass) and Levaughn Fussell (backround, on drums) play during a music session at the Plummer Home for Boys in Salem.

‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is played with blaring speed. “O ­Christmas Tree” is sung as a proud first solo.

The fourth holiday CD by the Plummer Home For Boys in Salem is a mash-up of Christmas carols, original songs, and a ­poem written and performed by a dozen teenage musicians who live at the group home on ­Salem Harbor or who take part in OnPoint, an outreach program for at-risk youth.

“It’s all us,” said Levaughn Fussell, 21, a drummer and the only Plummer musician to play on all four CDs released since 2009. “We have a lot of kids playing on it — guitar, keyboard, drums. We put our own influence on it. . . . . This is us.”


The boys have put their own spin on old holiday songs. For the first time, some of them sing.

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“It makes this CD very, very exciting,” said Aaron Z. Katz, music director at the home. “A lot of them are quiet, and they don’t like to be put on the spot. But when you put an instrument in their hands, you lead them in a very gentle way toward finding themselves.”

Copies of the CD were sent to more than 1,500 donors who support the home. It is also for sale for $5 in coffee shops around Salem. “This is just a way for us to give back and say, ‘Happy Holidays from The Plummer Home Family,’ ” Katz said.

The home is a nonprofit residence for males age 13 to 22 in the state’s foster care system. A group home houses younger boys, while residents 18 and up live in apartments.

“The kids have a lot of trauma in their lives,” said Katz, who founded the music program in 2007. “But if you give them a pair of earplugs and let them just rage on the drums, they have a way to deal with the energy they’re feeling in a positive way.”


Fussell loved the feel of drumsticks in his hands, the thrill of creating his own vibe. “If there were no music program, I don’t know how I would have moved forward and developed myself,” he said. “I ­really didn’t talk.”

Now he is the new drummer for The Ivy League, a Salem-based band. “I would love some day to be a professional drummer,” ­Fussell said. “Maybe play in Boston.”


Kathy McCabe can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.