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Young Louisville Percussionists Love Led Zeppelin — And Jimmy Page Loves Them

Mar 1, 2015

"Too good not to share," Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page wrote Feb. 20 on his Facebook page. "Have a rocking weekend!"

He was referring to this YouTube video of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists, an ensemble of 7- to 12-year-olds playing a medley of Zeppelin hits. That video, originally uploaded last November, has received more than 3 million views since Page shared it.

The Zeppelin medley was the brainchild of Diane Downs, a teacher who runs the Percussionists after school and on weekends.

Her young musicians play marimbas, vibes, timbales, congas, xylophones and, of course, drums. And they don't just perform rock music — they also play jazz, classical and pop.

The new-found attention for the small group is "pretty cool," Downs tells NPR.

"I want them to feel like rock stars. I want them to realize, 'Oh, this is why we work so hard in rehearsal.' I tell them that when you're presenting something to the public, you don't want it to be okay — you want it to be great," she says. "So hopefully they're going to carry that over into their lives once they grow up, too."

Click on the audio link to hear more about the percussion ensemble.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

That is Zeppelin, but you didn't get bumped to the classic rock station. This is still ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR. We just wanted to get you in the mood for our favorite Internet story of the week, the new celebrity of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERCUSSION MUSIC)

RATH: Those are 7- to 12-year-olds you're hearing on marimbas, vibes, timbales, congas, xylophones and, of course, drums. And this performance on YouTube has received more than 3 million views.

DIANE DOWNS: If you're learning about music, you've got to learn about Led Zeppelin. You can't leave that one out.

RATH: That's Diane Downs, director of the Louisville Leopards. The Zeppelin medley was her idea. The kids also play "The Ocean" and the "Immigrant Song."

(SOUNDBITE OF PERCUSSION MUSIC)

RATH: You almost expect to hear Robert Plant join in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMMIGRANT SONG")

LED ZEPPELIN: (Singing) We come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.

RATH: Well, that didn't happen, but the Leopards did get a boost from the original Zeppelin. Diane actually uploaded the video back in November, but the excitement picked up about a week ago.

DOWNS: Last week, there were about 7,000 views on the video. And my email was blowing up on Friday. So one of the comments said Jimmy Page shared this on his Facebook page.

RATH: That's right. Zeppelin guitarist and legend of rock Jimmy Page posted the video with the comment too good not to share. Have a rocking weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERCUSSION MUSIC)

DOWNS: I want them to feel like rock stars. I want them to realize, oh, this is why we work so hard in rehearsal. I tell them when you're presenting something to the public, you don't want it to be OK. You want it to be great. So hopefully they're going to carry that over into their life once they grow up, too. You know, that you don't get stuff without working hard. And then when you do get it, you know, it's pretty cool the stuff you get.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERCUSSION MUSIC)

DOWNS: We've already gotten a lot of people asking how to join the group. And the problem is we have to keep it small just because we don't have the resources to make it any bigger than it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERCUSSION MUSIC)

RATH: Diane Downs is a teacher, but the percussion ensemble isn't tied to any school. It's run by volunteers who get kids from schools around Louisville. They have sponsors, but it's a modest operation.

DOWNS: I have a full-time job. You know, I do Leopards after school and on the weekends. So we've just got to keep it kind of small.

RATH: So she's hoping the attention will attract more support - and then who knows.

DOWNS: You know, we're nonprofit. We don't have any money. So hopefully - hopefully, that'll help us there, too. But as far as what's down the road, I don't know what to expect. I never do. Things just seem to blow up.

RATH: The Louisville Leopard Percussionists will be performing live next month at the Brown Theater in Kentucky. But we think they've already blown up. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.