Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My High School Had a Steel Drum Band

What a strange memory I just had: My high school had a steel drum band. They even put out albums. How weird is that? I've actually just found them online, and found out that they're the third oldest still-playing steel drum band in U.S.:

In 1972 Lancaster Middle School band director John Marone was in Albany in the Mall of the Capital Building. Performing there was "Calliope's Childrens Steel Band" from Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York, under the direction of Mr. James Leyden. In the audience that day was Ellie Mannette, who was both the close friend, drum manufacturer and tuner for Mr. Leyden. Ellie Mannette lived in Queens, NY at that time. Mr. Marone was so intrigued by the sound of the steel drums, that he stayed and met the two giants of the early steel drum movement.

John returned to Lancaster in hopes of starting a steel program here. Unfortunately, there were no drums. The first drums that Lancaster and Mr. Marone were able to obtain were from local musician, Mr. Bob Diaz. These used drums included a set of five bass drums, a set of triple cellos, a double guitar, one or two double seconds and a single lead. John Marone used these drums with some middle school students, and immediately named the Lancaster group, the Carnival Kids Steel Orchestra. Mr. Marone knew in importance of “Carnival” both in Trinidad, and its relevance to the development of the steel drum.

As John’s students went to the high school in 1974, the group naturally became a high school organization. This is the date that is used as the starting point to this day, and as so often been stated, makes our CKSO the third oldest established continuing steel drum program in the United States. Mr. Marone worked both with high school students as the CKSO, and formed a separate training group of middle school students that was known as the cadet band.
Here's a weirder thing—and I know this is probably of little to no interest to anyone but myself and a few friends, but let me get this out here: Their website says they played at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1982. I worked at that World's Fair. I mean what are the odds for that? Just weird.


  1. One of our local high schools has a great Steel Drum Band program in their music department. I went to one of their shows last night. At one point they actually asked for requests. Well now, being de fan dat I am, I couldn't help but wonder what FZ composition might lend itself nicely to this format. I decided at the time that maybe a 'St. Alphonzo's/ Rollo/ Father O'Blivion' medley might catch the beat.

    1. I bet they ripped right into that for you!