Stomping in memory of slain drill master

The Funkateers, of the Gold Coast Buccaneers, coached by slain drill master Gregory "Chops" Scott.
The Funkateers, of the Gold Coast Buccaneers, coached by slain drill master Gregory "Chops" Scott. (DAWAN "BAMBI" SAVAGE)
Posted: May 26, 2013

The members of the Gold Coast Buccaneers drill team did not cry. Instead, the elementary students stomped, clapped, and chanted to remember their slain drill master, gunned down three months ago in West Philadelphia.

This class was the last one Gregory Scott taught the steps he had grown up practicing.

Scott, 55, affectionately known as "Chops," organized a school version of the drill team, known as the Gold Coast Funkateers, at the Samuel B. Huey Elementary School just a month before he was killed Feb. 27.

The shooting was allegedly a culmination of a dispute between Scott and his cousin James Scott III. James Scott and another man are charged with murder and await trial.

The 17-member team gave its graduation performance Friday to a packed auditorium of classmates and parents. Gregory Scott's death, while leaving his friends and community devastated, hasn't slowed the Buccaneers. Russell Shoatz III, a Buccaneers drill captain, said that, in some ways, it pushed the team further.

"It reinvigorated the community," he said. To fill the void in the Buccaneers left by Scott, "the alum came to nurture the kids."

Shoatz met Scott when both were young. He described how he nearly got into a fight with Scott's nephew before the nephew left to "go get someone." When Shoatz stared up at the older, larger Scott, Shoatz was terrified.

"Chops said, 'Guys, make up,' " Shoatz recalled. And they did.

Sharon Bryant, a third-grade teacher at Huey and a drill-team captain, met Scott in January after Huey principal John Spencer introduced them. The two began a partnership between her outreach organization, Standing in the Gap, and Scott's drill team.

Bryant founded Standing in the Gap after her son was killed in a car crash nearly five years ago; the Gold Coast Buccaneers, a drill team that regards itself as a "community development program," was founded in 1962 at 53d and Pine Streets. In recent years, Scott was its driving force.

"Drillmaster Scott's passion and energy was unbelievably powerful and intense," Bryant, who was in a drill team when she was growing up, said to the assembled crowd of students.

The group observed a moment of silence for Scott. Spencer called him a "pillar in the community."

The principal remembered Scott's frequently stopping by Huey just to check how everything was going. Whenever Spencer needed him, Scott was there.

Though the team remains strong, its members - especially the adults - still feel the impact of Scott's death.

Bryant "hasn't gotten past it." Drill captain Arlene Johnson has been in a drill team since she was 8; she had never drilled without Scott beside her.

"Chops was very nurturing, very stern, very disciplined, very patient with the young people," Shoatz said.

"As you got older, he got less patient," he said, chuckling. "But he was very loving - a father figure."

The assembly, peppered with memories and tributes to Scott, was lively.

When the gold-and-black Funkateers marched off the stage, a group of kindergartners shouted their approval - "Cool!" - over the whooping. After the Funkateers' performance, four students competed in a dance-off. The winning two attended a pizza party with the drill team.

The Gold Coast Buccaneers members are set to continue their work at Huey. They will not just be leading the drill team next year; Shoatz announced they would be starting a chess team.


Contact Sarah Smith

at 215-854-2771, sarahsmith@philly.com,

or follow on Twitter @sarahesmith23.

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