CW drums up a unique event


Members of Winchester Steel Company, the Canal Winchester High School Steel Band,   are, from left to right: (front row) Andrew Long Higgins, John Myers; (second row) Meagan McKinney, Lucas Knicely, Kristine Mason; (third row) Hannah Long Higgins, Kristi Kingery, Jacke Olson, Hannah Jewell, Jocelyn Deible; (fourth row) Megan Emmons, Kaley O’Donnell, Garrett Saylor, Zach Guiler; (fifth row) Kevin Tate, Joe Dixon, Alexia Mainella, Abbey Philips, Colin Graham, Konrad Deeg, Kevin Wheeler, and Andrew Norris. (Not pictured: Lucas Trilea.)

The musical world of the steelpan will shine its spotlight on Canal Winchester April 12 when the recognized leader in the unusual musical genre presents a workshop and concert.

Andy Narell, an internationally-recognized master of the steelpan or steel drum-a percussion instrument originally crafted out of 55 gallon steel oil drums-along with the Miami University Steel Band under the direction of Dr. Chris Tanner, will participate in an afternoon clinic with the 25 member high school steel drum band, the Winchester Steel Company.

Narell, the Miami band, and Canal Winchester students will then present a concert April 12 at 7 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, and free for the preschool age. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. and CDs featuring music of all three will be available for purchase.

"This is an exceedingly rare event for any high school student," said Todd Phillips, director of the Winchester Steel Company. "They have the opportunity to learn from, literally, the world’s best steel pan musicians and educators. It is amazing. Nothing else like this is happening in central Ohio.

"We equate it to LeBron James and an NCAA Final Four team spending the day with our high school basketball team to help them prepare for a state basketball championship run. The education and experience the students will receive that day will be unequaled. Since Canal Winchester is one of only two high school steel programs (the other is in Granville) in the area, the chance of seeing something like this won’t come again."

The concert features a selection of world music, in addition to an original piece, "Three Wishes," previously commissioned and played by the Winchester Steel Company and composed by Tanner.

About Narell

Narell just released his 13th solo album, "Tatoom-Music for Steel Orchestra," and performed on musical scores with composers including James Horner, Maurice Jarre, and Elmer Bernstein. His compositions have been featured in "The Firm" with Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman, television shows such as "Designing Women" and "Going to Extremes," and in commercials for Apple computers, Sony, and Porsche.

According to the Europe Jazz Network, "Narell combines Trinidad’s steelpan music with North American jazz and Antillean and Brazilian genres. He successfully unifies the musical styles of the Western Hemisphere, furthering the Pan American ideals of the late Dizzy Gillespie and other artists who have attempted to merge jazz with world music."

Phillips said preliminary discussions on bringing Narell and the Miami band to Canal Winchester began a couple of years ago when Tanner told the high school band leader that Narell was going to be an artist in residence and they were looking for places to play on a tour following the musician’s appearances at the college.

"We’ve been planning this for two years," said Phillips. "I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Narell in January 2007. One of the things about playing the steel drum is it is such a unique instrument and there aren’t that many of us out there playing it."

About Winchester Steel Company

The Canal Winchester steelpan program started in 2001. Phillips said he was fascinated by the instrument and when then Superintendent Steve Donahue approached the music department and said he wanted them to find something unique, Phillips knew the steelpan was the answer.

"We purchased the basic quartet and have since grown to 25 after school performers, 16 beginning students who meet during school, a middle school group, and an 18 member parent band that meets on the weekends," stated Phillips. "We are primarily self-funded through donations, CD sales, and sponsors. We’ve appeared at the Lancaster Arts Festival, opened for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, and play parties and wedding receptions, which gives students an idea of what life is like as a professional musician. The clinic and concert is an amazing opportunity for our students and we want a really big crowd at the concert, which is the last one in the 10 day tour. After that, Andy is going to the east coast for a series of concerts in Maryland and Washington, D.C. and then he’s heading back home to Paris."

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