Drumline centers around Devon (Nick Cannon), a freshman recruited to attend Atlanta A&T University on a full ride scholarship to play in the school’s marching band. He’s an overachiever with a chip on his shoulder who thinks he knows everything about playing the drums. At tryouts, which look more like boot camp, Devon disrespects his band director Dr. Aaron Lee (Orlando Jones) by refusing to participate with the rest of the group. A power struggle soon ensues between Devon and his drumline section leader Sean (Leonard Roberts) who feels the freshman’s talent threatens his position at the top of the food chain.
Devon is eventually removed from the team for causing a fight during homecoming, which leads to problems with his dance-squad leader girlfriend Laila (Zoe Saldana). The university president is upset about Devon’s removal and he pressures Dr. Lee to reinstate Devon because the school’s alumni will revoke their financial support of the squad if they don’t. Eventually, everyone works through their issues just in time for a marching band competition between A&T and its archrival, Morris Brown University. Indeed, in the last 20 minutes, we are finally treated to several full performances where their drum squads precision and artistry are allowed to shine.