Famed musician to perform in concert with CW High School students

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Canal Winchester Steel Company members Mikayla Boise and Jacob Brown  practicing after-school. The band is preparing for a Nov. 16 concert with the Miami University Steel Band and international steel pan artist Ray Holman.
Canal Winchester Steel Company members Mikayla Boise and Jacob Brown practicing after-school. The band is preparing for a Nov. 16 concert with the Miami University Steel Band and international steel pan artist Ray Holman.

The internationally famous steel pan virtuoso Ray Holman will visit Canal Winchester High School Nov. 16 to perform in concert with student musicians and the Miami University Steel Band.

Holman, a Trinidad native, is known as “The Mozart of the Steel Pan.” Canal Winchester High School music director Todd Phillips said Holman was a child prodigy and has since composed the most influential music in the genre.

“He will be appearing with the nation’s number one college steel band, the Miami University Steel Band and our own Canal Winchester High School ensemble, the Winchester Steel Company,” said Phillips. “This is an amazing opportunity for our students. How many high school students get the chance to work with the top college players and the man who has shaped steel band music for the last 40 years?”

More than two dozen Canal Winchester students are members of the school’s steel pan band.
“I’m a singer and have always been in choirs,” said freshman Emily Bricker, “and I’ve never really played an instrument. I came with a friend to a (steel drum) practice and decided to join. I enjoy it so much. Every free chance I get, I’m in the pan room. This is going to be my first high school concert and it will be an amazing mixture of musicians for a first concert.”

Senior Chris Biddy plays in the jazz, marching and concert bands, in addition to the steel band. He wanted to be more involved and finds the steel pan an instrument different from any he has played before. Biddy also enjoys the diversity of the music and its island beat.

Senior Mikayla Boise enjoys the differences of the steel pan.

“I like learning about different cultures through music,” said Boise. “On a gloomy day, the music sounds like you’re in paradise. The sun is always shining in the steel room.”

Over six years ago, the high school hosted a similar concert with Andy Narell and was contacted this year by the university’s band in late August. They were looking for a performance option somewhere in central Ohio and their director, Dr. Chris Tanner, previously worked with Phillips and also created a commissioned original piece for the high school band.

“He (Tanner) is aware of the high quality of our ensemble and we are excited to do this project with him and Mr. Ray Holman,” said Phillips. “Mr. Holman has had more effect on steel band music than anyone else in its history.  He was the youngest to ever win the solo steel drum competition in Trinidad. He is considered by many Trinidadians to be the greatest composer of steel band music. We will be getting the midwest premiere of his latest piece, ‘So Many Years’, with Mr. Holman as our soloist.”

According to Phillips, Holman’s involvement with steel drums began near their inception. He said he could not think of any other music discipline where a high school student can work with and learn from someone who was there at the beginning.

Because of a concert series performance in Florida, Holman cannot work with the Canal Winchester students until the day of his central Ohio debut, but Phillips expects Holman will encourage students through his music to reach their highest level throughout the rehearsal.
“My friends were in the steel band and said how different it was from the other school bands,” said junior Jacob Brown. “It is a good way to end your day (during after-school practice). I’m really excited to play with him (Holman) and with a large group of college musicians.”

Canal Winchester’s steel drum program began 15 years ago with four instruments and a quartet of students when the music department was challenged by the administration to come up with something unique that would set the district apart.

Today, there are 70 players, 30 instruments and four different bands—a middle school program, beginning high school band, an adult community program and the high school advanced band. All of the ensembles perform multiple concerts throughout the school year and advanced students perform all year long.

“Two of our favorite concerts during the summer include a featured performance at the Lancaster Arts Festival and opening for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra in their JazZoo Concert Series at the Columbus Zoo,” said Phillips. “Over the years, we’ve had a number of players perform solo or join one of the few college programs. Unfortunately, it’s one of those music jobs  you can’t live off of. A few of our current adult players do appear around central Ohio in small, coffee house style venues.”

The concert will include traditional island tunes, pop covers, jazz and a variety of styles of music.
The beings at 6 p.m. on Nov. 16 and doors open at 5 p.m. at the high school gymnasium, 300 Washington St. Tickets are available at the door and are $10 for adults and $5 for students/seniors.

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