Bringing a truckload of steel pans with him, Dr. Chris Tanner returned to Springer School and Center in December as the 2017 Norita Aplin Musician in Residence.
During his week-long residency, Dr. Tanner spoke with every class, sharing the history of the steel pan, an instrument that was invented in the 1930s in Trinidad and Tobago in response to a government ban on drumming in public. When drums were banned, people started banging on whatever they could find that was not a drum, to circumvent the ban, and the steel pan was born.
Dr. Tanner also worked with small groups of Lower School students, teaching them songs on the steel pans that they performed at a December 21 holiday assembly. “Returning to Springer in December 2017 as a Musician in Residence was a tremendous pleasure for me,” said Dr. Tanner. “Each time I am welcomed again into the Springer family, I am amazed at the dedication to excellence and the devotion to student success that every member of the staff demonstrates. It is inspiring to observe what goes on at Springer, and I am happy to have been a small part of it.”
Lower School student Canon Crowther enjoyed the experience, and said of the steel pans, “It’s an instrument I would consider playing again.” Sam Wade thought, “It’s a weird instrument, and fun to play.” “I like how the metal drums sound,” said Josh Moore, “and I liked learning about how the different instruments were named (bass pans, guitar pans, lead pan, etc.) When Alex Gilchrist saw the instruments, he realized he had once played a beginner version in a toy store. “I was nervous and excited at the same time, to play in front of people,” he recalled.
Dr. Tanner is Interim Chair of the Music Department at Miami University, and the founder and director of the Miami University Steel Band. He has authored a guide for the development of steel band programs in schools, and has released a recording of original music for steel band and jazz soloists. In 2016, Dr. Tanner founded the National Society of Steel Band Educators, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing steel band education in the United States.
The Norita Aplin Musician in Residence Program was established in 1997 to recognize former Executive Director Dr. Norita Aplin’s 14 years of leadership at Springer. The choice of a music residency reflects both Dr. Aplin’s commitment to education in the arts and her long-standing love of music. Dr. Tanner was the program’s first Musician in Residence in 1998, when he brought African drumming to Springer.