News Column

THS Orange Express to add steel drums to 2014-'15 lineup

May 15, 2014

By Teddye Snell, Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla.

May 15--TAHLEQUAH -- Next Christmas, attendees of the Tahlequah High School Orange Express Concert Band concert will hear a little tropical flair in their seasonal favorites.

Thanks to a donation from Randy Gibson, the THS band has added a full set of steel drums to its concert band lineup. Gibson provided half the funding for two lead pans, a set of "double seconds," and a full set of six bas pans.

Gibson, who played in the band at the University of Oklahoma, has a personal connection to steel drums.

"Whenever I got to OU, they added a steel drum band," said Gibson. "My wife [at the time], Melody, played in that band and eventually taught the steel drum band at OU."

Gibson said percussionists entering the university from large metro high schools often had an advantage, as those schools had steel drums in their inventories.

"They had a pronounced advantage over kids who came from smaller schools," said Gibson. "The kids from the smaller schools had to learn on the fly. I wanted the kids at Tahlequah to have the same advantages the kids from the big schools have when they go off to college."

Gibson said he made a promise to former THS band director Harvey Price that if he ever found himself in a position to give back, he would.

"Some things happened that have allowed me to do that," said Gibson "I pitched the idea to [THS Band Director] Josh [Allen] and told him I could donate half the cost, and he took it from there and got the drums."

Gibson's former wife, Melody, died last October.

"This whole situation is kind of touching for me," said Gibson. "Josh asked me for a name for the steel drum band. Melody planned to help teach the kids, but died before she had a chance. So the band has been named Steel Melody, in her honor."

Allen recently held open tryouts and said he has three groups of seven students who will be playing the steel drums next year.

"We have three steel drum bands set up," said Allen.

"So in all, we have 21 students from the band program participating. I plan to expand the steel drum band if it takes off, maybe doubling the size. We'd have to do it the same way, seeking help from the community for maybe half the funding."

Allen said he was surprised at who tried out for the band.

"It attracts a different type of student," said Allen. "It was interesting, I had a bass clarinet player and a clarinet player who never really volunteers for extra things jump out and were first in line to try out."

Allen thinks it's important to give students as many opportunities as possible.

"The more opportunities we give the kids, the more we get to discover their individual talents and interests," he said. "We really want to showcase it the right way, which is why we're waiting until next Christmas to introduce them to the public. They'll make their debut at the Christmas concert, and will serve as buffer music in between the concert bands."

Allen said next spring, the jazz band and steel drum bands will have a combined concert.

"Both have deep jazz roots, so it makes sense to have them on a bill together," said Allen. "And, just like the jazz band, students who participate in the steel drum band do so on their own time. There is no class time set aside to work up the material."


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Source: Tahlequah Daily Press (OK)

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