PAA Develops Steel Drum Band

With Portland Adventist Academy’s (PAA) band eligible to go to the Oregon state final competition for 2A league schools every year since 1988 and finishing first in the state nine times, and the choir eligible to do the same since 1990, Linda Neel, PAA music director, wanted an additional challenge for her students. When she heard the Walla Walla College steel drum band play in 2003, she found that new and unique challenge.

With the assistance of generous donors, the school was able to purchase a steel drum set during the 2003–04 school year consisting of a lead, two double, three guitar and six bass drums. These are played by four performers.

To Neel’s knowledge, the only other secondary school in the entire state of Oregon with a steel drum band is Hood River Valley High School. There are no others in the Portland area.

As this news gets out, the steel drum band is getting an increasing number of invitations to perform. They have traveled as far as Tillamook, Ore., to perform in their fine arts festival and have played multiple times for Portland-area churches and Adventist schools. Neel feels that there are new venues available for this small PAA musical group to contribute to the culture and worship of the area Adventist churches that is not available to the PAA band and choir because of their size.

The current student performers are Trevor Haynes, bass; Cindy Goh, lead; Melissa Thurnhofer, guitar; and Megan Pritchard, double drums. These students were chosen by invitation as it was thought that they could quickly learn these new instruments and that they would each be returning for another year. Neel plans on starting another quartet of performers next year so there will always be four students in training.

The steel drum band, also known as a pan band, developed in the Caribbean when islanders tuned World War II fuel drums to make music.

July 01, 2005 / Oregon Conference