Steel drum band brings Calypso beat to middle schools


A TASTE OF THE Caribbean came to southeast middle schools Friday as the Catonsville High School Steel Drum Band performed at Sykesville and Oklahoma Road middle schools.

In its first performance in Carroll County, the 25-member group brought the swaying rhythmic sounds of Calypso music to captivated pupils.

"I thought it was pretty cool," said Laura DelGiorno, a sixth-grader at Oklahoma Road. "It sounded a little like Hawaiian music."

Catonsville High instrumental music teacher James Wharton began Maryland's first high school steel drum band with a small group of students in 1991.

The group has grown and performs statewide, playing at school assemblies, churches and conventions. It has appeared on television and will play at the Beach Party on Ice at Rash Field on Feb. 5.

Dressed in flowered shirts and obviously enjoying themselves, band members performed music born in the island countries of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Calypso music originated as part of the identities of gangs in these countries. It developed into its present form when oil companies offered the gangs 55-gallon oil drums to use instead of paint cans, buckets and other items. The steel drum was developed in 1946 and is the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century.

The island gangs played in what were known as tamboo bamboo bands and used everyday items to make Calypso music. The Catonsville High players demonstrated that unique music using buckets, a metal trash can, wooden blocks and a brake drum from a car, which Wharton says is found in every steel drum band.

With indentations made on the underside of the drums, a steel drum can have from 32 notes to 36 notes on a lead pan to only three notes on the base 55-gallon drums. Pupils and staff at the middle schools got to try their hand on the drums with a rousing rendition of "La Bamba."

"I was glad the notes were written in the drum so I'd know where to play," laughed Linda Bankard, a secretary at Oklahoma Road.

Beanie Bingo

Members of the Sykesville Raiders Competition and Cheer Squad are sponsoring a Beanie Baby Bingo on Feb. 5 in the cafeteria at Liberty High School. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the games begin at 7 p.m.

The event will feature door prizes and raffles of Beanie Babies. Refreshments will be available.

Cost is $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Table reservations will be accepted.

The cheerleading squad recently placed first in the Junior Poms Dance Competition at Calvert Hall and first in the regional competition at Goucher College. The group has qualified for the national competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It also hopes to participate in the national competition March 25-29 in Walt Disney World.

Information: 410-795-7425.

Piney programs

The Nature Center at Piney Run Park has programs to help beat the midwinter blues. With Valentine's Day around the corner, the center's programs are focusing on hearts.

On Feb. 9, ages 14 and older are invited to create a Valentine grapevine wreath with dried naturals. The workshop runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and costs $15 for members and $18 for nonmembers.

On Feb. 10, ages 6 to 9 can decorate a wooden heart ornament to spruce up a doorknob or window latch. Adorned with dried flowers, leaves and ribbons, this makes a good Valentine's gift for parents or teachers. The program is 4: 15 p.m. to 5: 15 p.m. and costs $3 for members and $4 for nonmembers.

From 4: 15 p.m. to 5: 15 p.m. Feb. 11, ages 10 and older can create a nature heart box. Cost is $3 for members and $4 for nonmembers.

Registration: the nature center, 410-795-6043.

Sherry Graham's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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