Steel drum band performs final show for semester

Shantel-Ann Pettway

Yells, drum beats and tropical island shirts greeted audience members as they took their seats for the WKU Steelband’s concert.

On Tuesday, the band performed in its final show for the semester in the Fine Arts Center Recital Hall.

The 13-member band, dressed in floral, tropical-themed shirts, performed eight selections for the crowd of family, students and faculty.

As family members stood in the hallway waiting for the house doors to open, Laura Wathen, mother of Bowling Green senior Adam Wathen, was excited to see her son perform again.

“It’s a sense of pride and a lot of fun,” Laura Wathen said.

Laura Wathen wasn’t the only one in attendance who had heard the Steelband play.

Greenville, Indiana, senior Forrest Yankey is a former member of the steel drum band. Yankey wasn’t able to participate this semester due to student teaching and a lack of time to play.

Though Yankey wasn’t making music tonight, he was glad to support his friends.

“It’s weird seeing my friends up there and not playing,” Yankey said. “It’s always just a fun concert, and I just want to support my friends.”

One of Yankey’s friends is Princetown junior A.J. Cook. Cook played one of the lead steel drums at the concert.

Cook isn’t shy when it comes to performing.

“This is not my first time performing; I’ve done it many of times,” Cook said. “I love performing.”

Throughout the performance, Cook danced to the rhythms of the drums with the band members beside him. He said the dance moves are sometimes spontaneous and sometimes rehearsed.

“We do a lot of times plan stuff, and a lot of times we just let the music move us,” Cook said.

One of the songs that moved Cook was “El Montuno,” a fun piece he said the ensemble has played frequently this semester.

Steel drum music is derived from Trinidad and Tobago, according to Mark Berry, the ensemble’s director.

Though most of the concert’s pieces paid tribute to the music’s Caribbean roots, the band also played steel drum selections from other areas.

“Versos pra Teresa,” which means song for Teresa, is a piece from Brazil. The band also showcased reggae music from Jamaica with a piece called “Jungle Beat.”

Berry said he has been playing steel drum music for about 21 years. He arranged some of the selections that were played Tuesday.

Berry started the steel drum band 11 years ago and from his experience believed students would like it.

“I began to play more and more through college, and it was becoming more popular,” Berry said. “I knew that students here would value it.”

He said he loves teaching the history of steel drums, arranging music and seeing students grow.

“I have a passion for music in general, and it’s great to teach students how to play the steel drums,” he said.

Many students who take part in the band have percussion backgrounds but have never played the steel drums, Berry said.

“The steel drums aren’t an easy instrument to play, but the students rally together and get it done,” Berry said.

Leitchfield freshman Aaron Meador expected to hear some new music in the concert.

Meador came for a class assignment but likes music and was interested to see a genre of music being performed that was different from what he typically enjoys.

Meador was satisfied with the display showcased at the concert.

“It was a learning experience and something new,” he said.