Steel Drum Musician
I love playing the steel drum. When I first heard this instrument, I was studying jazz trombone and concert euphonium performance in college in Southern California. There was a steel drum ensemble at my school and my feet lifted off the ground, and my ears carried me upstairs to where they were rehearsing. When I heard those Caribbean rythyms and the melody of pan music, everything else just seemed to float away. I said to the professor, Ray McNamara, "I want to do this. How do I learn to play this instrument?" He said, "Join this steel band." The year was 1997. My life changed forever.
I learned to play the guitar pan. I learned to play the brake drum and the bell. I learned what an "engine room" is and why it is so critical in a "pan yard". I learned the difference between a soca feel from Trinidad and reggae feel from Jamaica. In all the years I had played trombone in reggae bands, I had never learned about reggae feel. I learned about the history of steel pan in Trinidad and the spread of the music and culture throughout the world. I started buying recordings of steel drum orchestras, and swapping with my band mates. We started learning an arrangement of a popular song from Trinidad called "Misbehave", written and arranged for Panorama by Len "Boogsie" Sharpe. This song, like other arrangements for the competition are very intricate, have a lot of specific parts for each steel pan instrument in the orchestra, change keys and modes, do not do a lot of repeating, and are very difficult and challenging to memorize. An incredible amount of musical development was happening in our band.
Some years went by. Some people left the band and some new members joined. I kept hanging around and I would have forever. I joined some other bands too, and flew all over the country to play. Big Bamboo Steel Band remained, to me, as a sanctuary where I could come learn and arrange and be creative and hang out. We had a lot of fun and I hoped that it would never end, but in September 2011, I fell madly in love with the bass player. A year later he joined the United States Air Force and we got married and moved to Biloxi, then Pensacola and then Macon, Georgia. He and I kept playing music together after we left. I started doing a lot of solo work and the two of us worked on several variations of a duo and have played all throughout the southeast, and met lots of talented new people to play with too. We miss the band, but we see and play with our friends when we go visit our families in California. Today we live in Sumter, South Carolina and are expecting a baby boy in January 2016.