It felt like a tropical day in December, when 2014 Musician in Residence Dr. Chris Tanner brought the island music of Trinidad and Tobago to Springer School and Center. Dr. Tanner is Associate Chair of the Department of Music at Miami University, and the founder and director of the school’s Steel Band.
During his weeklong stay at Springer, Dr. Tanner introduced students in all departments to the various elements of a steel band and the history of steel band music. Working with a group of Intermediate students, he gave instruction on the instruments, known as steel pans. At the end of the residency, the students demonstrated what they had learned in a performance at the school’s Holiday Assembly.
“It was confusing at times, but once I got the hang of it, it’s fun!” said student Nick Comarata about learning the play the steel pans. Isabel Roebel said, “It was a lot of fun to try something new!” The students learned their parts without written music, and played by memory for the performance. “I really liked it,” said Hunter Jones. “But it was hard because you have to remember all the different patterns.”
“I always enjoy the chance to work with younger students,” remarked Dr. Tanner. “With these students, I was especially struck by their self-awareness – their own awareness of how they learn best. To be in a place where everyone – students, faculty, and staff alike – are unwavering in their common purpose is inspirational. I am proud to have the opportunity to be part of the Springer family for a brief time."
Dr. Tanner was Springer’s very first Musician in Residence when the program was launched in 1998 to honor former Springer Executive Director Norita Aplin for her 14 years of leadership to the school. He has returned several times, alternating steel band and African drumming for his work with the students. Dr. Tanner is the author of a book on developing a steel pan program for schools, and has released a recording of his original music, and five recordings with the Miami University Steel Band.