Brooklyn youth band struggling after teen’s murder

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BROOKLYN (PIX11) --The Royal Knights are a marching band in East New York with a special purpose.

“It’s more of a family,” explains director Osei Smith. “Most kids come from a single parent household with multiple children so they don’t really get the attention that’s necessary.”

Each day after school, band members meet at a community center. Students have to complete their homework before practice can begin.

For nearly a decade the Royal Knights have won awards around the country, but last spring the music suddenly stopped. One of their members, 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland was murdered on her way home from band practice.

“She’s never forgotten, but we just have to like continue doing what we do,” said Royal Knights drummer Breona Mathews. “We couldn’t let that take over us.”

Months later the group faced another major setback. The band learned they could no longer meet at a local middle school. They depended on the school for space, instruments, and uniforms. Now they play with hand-me-downs.

“We had to take anything,” Smith said. And after losing their uniforms, “the look and morale of the kids kind of changed.”

The Royal Knights are still marching on and will perform this Friday in the Village Halloween Parade.

For more information on The Royal Knights contact or visit