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Excellence and Expertise

Miami University Steel Band celebrates 30 years

Join the band Saturday, April 20 at 7:30p.m.

Excellence and Expertise

Miami University Steel Band celebrates 30 years

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On Saturday, April 20, 2024, the Miami University Steel Band will present a concert celebrating their 30th anniversary. The concert will feature the current Steel Band ensembles, as well as over 50 alumni performers who are returning to campus to participate in this gala event.

Director Chris Tanner founded the Steel Band in the spring of 1994 as a Masters student in the Department of Music. His teacher and mentor, Dr. William Albin, secured funding for the purchase of the initial set of steel pans and brought Tanner in as a graduate assistant to start and run the ensemble. Tanner had learned about steel pans during his undergraduate years at West Virginia University, where he encountered and studied with Ellie Mannette, a native of Trinidad & Tobago and a legendary pioneer of the art form.

The first iteration of the Steel Band comprised ten students, all of whom were members of the Percussion Ensemble. Today, the Steel Band program at Miami includes two separate ensembles, Beginner and Advanced, with a combined enrollment of over fifty students. The Beginner ensemble is geared toward those who come to Miami with no prior experience on steel pan instruments, while the Advanced ensemble is for experienced players, including those who have enrolled in the Beginner band for one semester.

Tanner has composed original music for steel band since his earliest days leading the ensemble, and today he travels the country frequently, working as a guest artist and clinician with collegiate and secondary school steel bands. The concert will feature several of Tanner’s compositions, including some that have been recently commissioned and premiered by other steel bands. In 2016, he visited Trinidad and Tobago with a group of students to perform in Panorama, T&T’s annual steel band competition, often compared to the Super Bowl in terms of significance to the steel band discipline. He is a founding member and serves as President of NSSBE, National Society of Steel Band Educators, and professional organization dedicated to advancing steel band education in the United States.

“It is both humbling and gratifying to have the support of so many alumni, and I am thrilled to welcome them back to campus to perform alongside our students," said Tanner. He further noted that a number of MU Steel Band alumni have gone on to direct their own steel bands in colleges and secondary schools across the nation. 

The performance will culminate with a rendition of one of the best-known and beloved arrangements from the Panorama competition, “Pan Woman,” composed by Ray Holman in 1987. Holman, who has appeared as a guest artist with the MU band on two occasions in the past, is one of the art form’s most significant figures. His electrifying piece will be performed by a combined ensemble of current and alumni band members.

Tickets for the concert, which takes place at 7:30 PM in Hall Auditorium on Miami’s Oxford campus, are available through the MU Box Office. Admission is $8 ($5 for students and seniors) and all seats are reserved.