The Pan Handlers Trinidadian Steel Pan Band recently made a visit to the Hamline music department. The Pan Outreach program travels to schools across the Twin Cities and surrounding areas to supplement the music programs of every level, from elementary schools to post-secondary institutions.
On Oct. 17, a workshop was held in Drew Fine Arts for all students and faculty who were interested in learning how to play the steel drums. The workshop included multiple different types of steel drums and attendees were instructed in playing a short piece of music.
Jeremy Kunkel, director of the Pan Outreach program, said that the program offers a myriad of different opportunities for school music departments, including teaching students how to play steel pans, arranging pieces for existing ensembles or blending pan into the curriculum of the classroom.
“The goal is to give everybody interested an opportunity to play steel drums and learn about world and cultural music without having to break the bank,” Kunkel said.
Kunkel also noted that it took a long time before he could find an organization who was willing to purchase a large number of steel drum instruments as they are fairly expensive and take a long time to be produced.
“It’s not a secret that music education funding is lacking, so any kind of program like this that can supplement—at any school—is a bonus” Kunkel said.
Steel drums are a unique instrument in both shape and sound, and the workshop was open to all who were interested. However, attendance was low, with only one student and a handful of faculty members joining the workshop.
Miscommunication and limited promotion may have contributed. A small mention in Inside Hamline, provided the wrong start time and there was not even a sign indicating that the workshop would be taking place on the band room door until around ten minutes before it actually started.
Senior Myles Todman, the student who attended the workshop, started playing steel pan in elementary school. Todman has played a variety of steel drums and was a part of the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra in high school.
“It’s a part of the culture where I grew up in the St. Thomas Virgin Islands. Everyone usually plays pan at some point,” Todman said. “It’s really fun and I really enjoy it.”