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Catonsville High band gets visit from Trinidadian steel drummer

Each year, Catonsville High School's Steel Band director Jim Wharton brings a guest artist to work with students. This year, Wharton is keeping the tradition alive with Trinidadian steel drum player Ken ¿Professor¿ Philmore, who is working with the students all week, culminating with a concert Friday, March 27.
Each year, Catonsville High School's Steel Band director Jim Wharton brings a guest artist to work with students.

This year, Wharton is keeping the tradition alive with Trinidadian steel drum player Ken "Professor" Philmore, who is working with the students all week, culminating with a concert Friday, March 27.

“Having Ken Philmore come to Catonsville High School to work with our steel band is like the football coach having Joe Flacco come in to work with the football team,” Wharton said. “He is absolutely a virtuoso performer and a star arranger … it’s really an honor to have him here.”
Students in the band, who range from freshmen to senior, are rehearsing with Philmore and learning how to perform without sheet music, the way Trinidadian steel drummers do, Wharton said. They come to memorize the patterns their hands follow on the drums. 
“I know music just naturally, kind of like the wind does,” Philmore said. “I have ears as big as an elephant’s. I can’t read or write music, but I feel music. For me, it’s a very spiritual thing.”
Junior Elena Zink, 16, says learning to play by rote will be a challenge, but “at the end of the week, it will be an accomplishment.”
Wharton hopes Philmore’s style of teaching will help students with their level of performance and passion for the music.
“Learning music like this, it’s fast-paced, it gets your heart going,” said band member Joe Eagle, 17. “That feeling, it’s kind of like raging joy.”
Philmore's goal is for more children to learn to play steel drum and for more people worldwide to respect it like traditional drums, guitar or piano.
“I love teaching kids, because I like to see the joy in their faces,” Philmore said. “It’s easier to work with kids than with big people … with kids, it’s just a joy. It’s fun.”
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