“I am so glad, young lady, that you’re going to get to enjoy this,” said Donald Hensley as he handed the drum sticks over to 17-year-old Boca Ciega High School band student Arlene Assllani.
Hensley and his wife Brenda recently made the decision that it was time to get the heck out of dodge and away from the Florida heat. The Hensley’s have a home in Tennessee they’re ready to move back to, but that comes with one hitch – they have to downsize.
That decision made Assllani the lucky recipient of her very own drum set. Assllani, who comes from a musical family, has been involved in music since she was 5 years old. Assllani first learned the piano, the viola, then percussion, eventually finding her passion in the drums.
When Hensley decided it was time to find a new home for his drum set, he reached out to long-time friend, BCHS math teacher and Gulfport Councilmember Christine Brown.
“I wanted to find a student who had a need and a passion for drumming,” said Hensley. “Christine was the first person I thought could help me.”
Brown contacted BCHS music teacher Joe Spiriora, who knew just the person.
“Owning your own instrument allows you to do more than what you would do in the band room at school,” said Assllani. “It strengthens your art; I’m extremely grateful.”
Cringing at the thought of having a novice drum player in your house?
Don’t fret for the Assllani family. Arlene’s father Kenny was all about it – you could say it was music to his ears.
“In my country, [Albania], rock and roll was illegal,” said Kenny. “When I was younger, I made my own drum set out of cardboard and other pieces and if I was caught playing them, I just said I was ‘exercising.’”
When Arlene told her father about getting a drum set, he encouraged her from the get go.
“I tell her: ‘I’ll teach you what I know and you’ll teach me what you know,’” Kenny said.