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Miami’s steel drum band creates ‘pan’demonium

Miami’s Steel Band is "Burnin’" as hot as the group’s professionally produced CD of the same title. The band may not be the oldest in the country but it’s one of the biggest, according to Director Chris Tanner, and is becoming well known in national circles.

"Burnin’," released in March 2001, has sold more than 1,000 copies both locally and nationally via the Web, including sales at amazon.com.

The band performed last fall for the Ohio Music Educators Convention and has been invited to play next month at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Columbus. "This is the absolute pinnacle for percussion," said Tanner. "There’s nothing higher."

The group’s clinic/performance is titled "The Steel Band: A Versatile Vehicle for Various Styles," and Miami students will be joined by "a parade of talented artists," according to Tanner.

Locally, the band performs during Parents Weekend, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2, in Hall Auditorium. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for the general public. The concerts will feature the Britain-Moore Duo, composed of Mat Britain on steel pan and Dan Moore on marimba. The band will play music by the duo, plus premier compositions by Tanner.

Additionally, Tanner and the Steel Band will give a free Parents Weekend presentation at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in Hall. Their topic is "Music From Oil Cans: The Sound of the Steel Drum."

Performances on campus each semester are only a part of the band’s activities. Tanner said they play more than 30 dates annually, including parks concerts, invited conference and arts series concerts, and outreach appearances at area schools. Steel Band alumni have gone out to spread the word, too, starting bands locally including most recently at Walnut Hills High School.

About 50 students participate in the Miami Steel Band program, with new members in a beginner band where they learn to play an instrument and receive an introduction to the art form. Students come from "all majors on campus," according to Tanner.

The band comprises six different types of steel drum instruments. Each instrument corresponds to a different musical range, and the instruments each perform one of three separate roles: melody, harmony or bassline. Miami owns about 17 of the instruments; some students own their own. Costs average about $2,000 per instrument.

Cincinnati audiences will experience the band and other Miami world music ensembles, including Global Rhythms and the African Drum and Dance Ensemble, in "A Celebration of World Music" Nov. 25 at the Aronoff Center. The groups will perform for more than 1,000 area students during the daytime and present a 7:30 p.m. program for the general public.

And if that wasn’t enough, the band will go back to the recording studio during winter break to cut a second CD, produced by pan artist Tom Miller.

Chances are, the follow-up will be just as hot.

Date Published: 10/17/2002
Volume: 22   Number: 12

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