Baba Jesse Buckner


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A percussionist whose experience spans 45+ years, and ranges from African Drumming and Beat to Gospel to Rhythm and Blues and Soul music genres. 

Baba Jesse’s career began as part of his family’s musical group, “The Minnesota Gospel Twins,” who performed on radio and television over a 20-year span in the Twin Cities. He has performed and collaborated with local and national artists such as The Sounds of Blackness, the late Nell Carter, Kirk Whalum and a host of other local and regional artists. He is a percussions member of the International Music Department for the Church of God in Christ, Inc. 

At age 20, he arranged and performed his original drum and percussion compositions for a local gospel recording band named “JWWB.” He was Conductor of the “High Praise Orchestra;” served as Artistic Director of Intermedia Arts, Lundstrum Center and Paul Wellstone Community Center.

“Baba Jesse” studied West African Drumming under the tutelage of “Baba” Nmindle Mandla, more than 20 years ago, and earned the title, “Baba” in 2012, when Baba Nmindle returned to Minnesota. Currently Baba Jesse teaches West African Drum and Dance at Friendship Academy of the Arts, a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School in Minneapolis, MN. 

Baba Jesse founded Heart and Soul Drum Academy in 2001, to teach children the Art of Drumming, and to give them creative ways to direct positive energy into their lives.. Past students who have graduated from the academy are currently recording-studio musicians, marketing and business managers, entrepreneurs, educators and parents. They have credited their experiences as a drum student with helping them to develop their soft skills such as active listening, discipline and coordination; while fostering opportunities for leadership, teamwork and conflict resolution which helps them in their daily lives.

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Benita Buckner ∣ Executive Director

A retired 27-year Veteran of the United States Air Force.. She served throughout the world in multiple career fields such as Superintendent of Chapel Operations, Family Readiness Specialist, Aircraft Maintenance Crew Chief, Aerospace Quality Assurance Specialist, Public Affairs Representative and Accounting Technician.

As a Citizen-Airman, accustomed to dual roles, she also served in municipal government as the Service Center Operations Manager for the Fair Oaks Neighborhood Service Center, Department of Neighborhood Services, Sacramento County, California. She was Project Manager to establish the Service Center in Fair Oaks, California. and helped to establish a 501 © (3) non-profit organization in 1998, serving as Corporate Secretary. 

Benita moved to the Twin Cities Metro area when she married Baba Jesse Buckner in 2015. Past service opportunities for youth have been as Office Manager for Outpatient Psychiatric Clinic for Adults and Youth; Victim and Witness Claims Specialist, Office of the District Attorney, and Senior Office Assistant, Child and Youth Access Services, all with Sacramento County, California. 

She has served her local church as Vacation Bible School Coordinator, Sunday School Teacher Primary - Middle School age, Youth Mentor, Young Single Women's Ministry Coordinator, Youth and Young Adult Bible Study Teacher, and her most-loved, prestigious award as "World's Best Auntie," presented by her 65 nieces/nephews and great-nieces/nephews.

Benita is grateful for the opportunity to serve the youth of Heart and Soul Drum Academy.

"This awesome responsibility helps me to continue being a positive role model for youth on a larger scale than just my family and church. I know we are providing a positive impact to the Twin Cities and globally, for generations to come with talented, intelligent leaders who will accomplish greatness wherever they place their hands, in part, because of Heart and Soul Drum Academy. This right here marks immeasurable success."

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Jamani Buckner ∣ Chief Financial Officer

Jamani’s percussion experience spans 14 years, which has given him the leadership ability to mentor peers, young drummers and take on a leadership position within the nonprofit organization as Controller. He is responsible for reporting accurate and timely financial information for the organization, overseeing its budget and helps to develop financial plans -- interpreting risk planning activities. He is a performing drummer and serves as an inspiring mentor to neighborhood and school age children.

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Shivena Robinson ∣  

Shivena has been with Heart and Soul Drum Academy since its inception helping the organization run smoothly. She oversees the following areas:  social media, public liaison and travel & reservation planning.  

Shivena is the wife of Joshua Robinson, Sr. and they have four children.

Shivena’s impact with Heart and Soul Drum Academy can be seen when you visit our Facebook Page.

“I do what I do for the babies. I am so proud of them,” she said.

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Rita Picard ∣ Youth Mentor

Married to a wonderful man, my life partner Bob for almost 2yrs.

We have five sons, a daughter and have been gifted with 9 spicy grandchildren. I believe that it takes a village to raise us, and I could not have survived without the likeminded friends and community who came alongside me. I endeavor to be the same.

I have taught primary and teen Sunday School, directed a children’s choir, been a county foster parent and an extended “Momma” and big sister too. I love people.

“We all deserve to be respected so there are no big ‘i’s’ and little ‘you’s.’  I believe that our children are our future and now is the time to help them know who they are, what they can be/do, help them stir up their gifts through disciplines of hard work and consistency. These values and more will serve them well in the days and years ahead.  For they will become a significant part of someone’s Village.”

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Dona M. Loney ∣ Youth Mentor

Donna, is a retired exceptional and compassionate volunteer utilizing tutoring, counseling, arts and crafts, computer and clerical skills to empower individuals to achieve success in all areas of their lives

She assists Heart and Soul with one-to-one therapeutic goal-oriented mentoring for Academy students and serves as a drum instructor for our community girls drum circle at the Rondo Community Outreach library and in a charter school in Minneapolis.

Donna has a background in Human Services Counseling and uses positive psychology techniques when she teaches drumming and when mentoring. 

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Bob Picard ∣ Youth Mentor & Logistics Manager

Bob hails from St. Paul Minnesota and attended schools in the Highland Park neighborhood. As a younger man, he traveled the country much by train and thumb.

Bob knows the meaning of hard work and was a driver for Paratransit companies, which focuses on the special needs of clients, where he gained employee of the month honors.

Bob has a love for nature and science especially Physics.

Bob is caring, compassionate-- a great listener and wonderful storyteller with an innate ability to change a tense or awkward moment with humor.

Bob shares with his wife, Rita, a commitment to be positive (+) influence wherever they are. Additionally, Bob serves on a board at work that creates community outreach projects for his coworkers, inspiring them to give back.