Steeling the show: Drummers showcase their skills

Aden Soroca and Devin Allard-Neptune

The school’s steel bands performed tunes from all across the globe yesterday, from Jamaica, Trinidad, Columbia, and the United States.
Last night’s performance was not the only concert the steel band has played. In December, the steel band performed alongside the school’s Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and Jazz Band in the annual holiday concert. The concert last night featured only the steel band, making the annual concert unique, Alan Bates, the director of the Steel Drums bands, said.
Three classes, a total of 39 students, participated in last night’s concert. According to Bates, the bands are separated by age and experience.
Each group played four different songs, with genres ranging from Calypso and Reggae to Pop. Half of the songs that were played at the concert were selected by the students. The other songs were selected by Bates with his students’ capabilities in mind. “I chose some of the music for them that I thought would be good for the level that they’re playing at,” he said.
The performance was structured so that the youngest band composed of freshmen and sophomores played first, Bates said. While the setup of the concert was based upon the experience of the players, none of the music was easy, Bates said. The first group played a rendition of “Baby Shark,” which was altered to be more “interesting.”
In addition to “Baby Shark,” the first band also performed “La La La Brazil” by Shakira, a Calypso titled “Both of Them,” and “One Drop” by Bob Marley. “We have been practicing for the concert since the very start of the year,” Griffin Klein (10), a member of the first band, said.
“We have learned multiple songs, and through many months of practice, we have tried to perfect them for the concert,” Klein said. The first band is performing two new songs that they have never performed at a concert before. “It is definitely challenging to learn a new song but once we spend enough time working on the song, it becomes fun to play,” Klein said.
In preparation for the concert, each song was practiced repeatedly, said Leonardo Hess (10). However, when the class needed to learn a new song, they were encouraged to sight-read in order to improve their playing and reading abilities, he said.
According to Hess, the biggest obstacle the steel band faces is time. As a result of the busy schedules of the players, most players can only practice in class. This stresses the importance of having productive class periods, which is another struggle for the band, Hess said.
The second band, which included Sophomores and Juniors, played “Crazy Love” by Michael Bublé, “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green, a cover of “I Got You Babe” by UB40, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
“One challenging aspect was the rhythms in some of the songs which were slightly difficult for the entire class to play in sync,” Kristin Yung (11), a member of the second band said. “We also finished our last song very recently, so we have not had too much time to practice.”
The third band performed “Passionfruit” by Drake, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “Wild Wild World, and “Jaws,” a Calypso from Trinidad, said Bates. “Sometimes I’m too energetic during rehearsals cause the music can just take over,” Peter Lehv (12) said. “You’ve got to stay grounded and realize that we are all playing for a common goal of steel pan greatness.”
According to Vani Prasad (12), who is finishing her fourth year playing steel drums, this particular song selection makes the concert more fun to learn and play. “We are playing ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA, which made it much easier for many of us to learn since it’s a song that we all know and love,” she said.
“There is definitely a feeling of satisfaction that spreads throughout the room when we play a song in its entirety for the first time,” said Hess. “Practice can be challenging, but once we realize what comes out of it, we feel good about the work we put in.”