In the final week of November, I have 2 more exciting adventures before closing out and looking forward to December. McDonald's has a "Make Activities Count" grant that funds teachers who are trying to give unique and creative experiences in the classroom, encouraging them to use the funding to go beyond what is expected.
My proposal in September was to purchase a midi drum interface and all of the supplies it takes to create 10 midi triggers that have very long cables in order to reach every corner of the room.
The USB port allows me to map any appropriate sounds on my laptop, so that students can go from playing a cardboard box drum set to a xylophone that takes up the whole room. Whether we use our hands or rhythm sticks, the students would be able to trigger electronic sounds by striking whatever object the piezo sensor is attached to.
The paper thin sensor can be taped or glued to any object that vibrates and will send a signal back to the interface and then back to the laptop and send a sound through the classroom sound system. For instance, a long 2x4 piece of wood that 10 students can drum on at the same time could sound like a bass drum while another 2x4 could sound like a snare drum. On a smaller scale, a hand puppet could have the sensor in its mouth and signal a funny sound effect every time it talks.
I received an email earlier this month that I was selected by the MAC McDonald's Foundation to fund my idea and put these applications in front of my students as soon as possible. I'll have more to show after I attend the ceremony on Wednesday.
Every year after PASIC, I come home energized about what direction to head in, whether it was get better at drum set in high school, get better at 4 mallets in college or get better at everything after college. Now that I'm set in my professional career of teaching and lecturing, PASIC is more about enjoying the experience and figuring out how to best impact my community in a positive way. My main goal when talking other steel band directors was to figure out what problems they're having and if there is any way to tackle them in my compositions.
Is it possible to have tunes in your library that are never meant to see the stage? But are used to teach a scale or technique? Band and orchestra directors across the country have access to sight reading booklets, chorales for tuning and composed scales exercises. The same tools, if used in conjunction with preparing for a concert, could create a longer lasting skill for the pan as opposed to learned 5 songs every semester. As well as learning steel band literature, what about the budding soloist or chamber group?
It is accepted that the steel pan community does not have a standardized progression of solo, ensemble or band pieces even though college level percussion ensemble has a steady progression of popular works. Is "Pan in A Minor" the same right of passage as the contructions or ritmicas of the percussion ensemble world? Maybe the rebellious spirit behind pan is the reason we enjoy constantly looking for new literature or creating our own. An homage to the bands of Trinidad that truly represented the neighborhood they were rooted in, avoiding similarities to their neighbors in order to maintain their identity.
Regardless of our steel band intentions, I get excited about the prospect of a high schooler taking a pan solo to All-State or solo and ensemble. The same way many of us began with snare drum or marimba.
Above is the greatest meeting of the minds involved in steel pan that I have ever witnessed, which is largely because I missed the last PASIC this occured. Though this isn't everyone who is currently making the pan community proud, the picture above contains some of the most influential performers and composers of my lifetime. Composers whose names have been on my sheet music since the beginning were now casually standing around, cracking jokes and telling stories between runs of their own pieces.
A committee (some pictured) was created to curate a diverse concert that could speak to all pan lovers. One committee member said they had about 50 pieces to choose from and had to make sure that similar music wasn't programmed, which I'm sure was no easy task. Though popular, it was also important to avoid an all Soca program to keep interest with the audience. Programmed pieces included bossa novas, cha cha, waltz and even a non-secular holiday tune. The concert closed with a performance of Las' Lap which was the perfect send off for everyone involved.
The concert received a standing ovation and created a pan hang that lasted long enough to get kicked out of the hall for the next concert. Many comments were made about wishing this could happen every year!
I was very fortunate to spend 3 days with Dr. Floyd and the Campbellsville University percussion studio.
Dr. Floyd has built quite a pan community around his city, utilizing Jumbie Jams for a youth ensemble and his own private steel band studio, both of which are under the title of Steel Appeal. The concert Dr. Floyd programmed combined the members of Steal Appeal with the Campbellsville University studio for a massive display of diverse talents for a packed theater.
Steel Appeal students between grades K - 5 played Fast One, Lazer Racer and Coconut Crazy. Though the young ones practiced along with the backing tracks in rehearsal, the students were treated a live band playing behind them on the concert!
The Steel Appeal group that is 6th grade and older played Major Scale Mambo, Waiting in Vain and then was joined by the college students for Use Somebody.
Campbellsville University undergraduates and grad students performed Four Leads, Halfa Sun, Pop'n and then concluded with Andy Narell's Coffee Street.
All of the performers on this concert participated in a recording session the night before in order to produce quality audio and video of this landmark event. Even though our session went well into the night, the humor never left the stage. Jokes about Bb's being "live this time" and comparing solos to throwing darts at a target kept everyone laughing between takes and all the way to the last hang after the concert. I can't say enough about the level of professionalism and positivity that surrounds Dr. Floyd's students and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.