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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Steel ‘Dores spring show filled Ingram Hall with joyous drumming

From the beginner bands to the most advanced, the group created a joyous performance with their steel drums.
Members+of+the+band+rehearsing+for+the+show.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FIsabella+Bautista%29
Isabella Bautista
Members of the band rehearsing for the show. (Hustler Multimedia/Isabella Bautista)

Vanderbilt’s Steel ‘Dores performed at Ingram Hall for their spring semester show on April 14. From radio hits, movie music and Calypso classics, the performance was full of good music and groovy vibes. 

Steel ‘Dores is made up of three bands — white, black and gold — and correspond with different levels and classes in Blair. For this concert, they were joined by bands from Vanderbilt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and from local Dupont Hadley Middle School, creating a lineup that ranged from age 13 to over 80. The show included collaborative performances with Vanderbilt and middle school students sharing the stage for delightful and impressive tunes.

Speaking with the director of the band, Professor Mat Britain, he noted his enthusiasm for this semester’s concert, especially because of the opportunity to collaborate with the guest performers.

“It’s been a really great semester,” Britain said. “We haven’t had any visiting steel bands here for a long time. It’s just logistically really hard to move a steel band from point A to point B. So I’m super excited about the middle school bands coming.”

Senior Tatum Earp, a member of the Steel ‘Dores Gold Band, also expressed her excitement for the guest performers.

“This is the first chance we’ve had to engage with younger community members in Nashville, and we’re so thrilled to collaborate with them,” Earp said. “It makes me so happy that we get to connect with people of all ages who love steel band.”

The show opened with Vanderbilt’s white steel band, the beginner level. They performed a collaborative tune with DuPont’s eighth-grade band that had several audience members grooving along in their seats. The middle schoolers captured the audience’s attention with Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

Next up, the OLLI bands, both the intermediate and the advanced levels, took their turns on the stage, showing it’s never too late to learn a fun new skill (and excel at it).

Following this, DuPont’s seventh-grade band took the audience on a wonderful escape to an “Island in the Sun,” which I really needed amidst the impending doom of finals. They were joined by Vanderbilt’s black steel band, the intermediate level, who after playing with DuPont for a tune, dove into “Breaking Down,” a current hit on the radio in Trinidad, the home of the steel drum.

After a lovely interlude from the directors of both Steel ‘Dores and the DuPont bands, Vanderbilt’s gold steel band, the advanced level, took the stage to perform an engaging medley. The piece included classic steel drum songs as well as pop culture tunes such as “Live and Let Die” and the theme music from James Bond. To close out the stellar performance, the gold band was joined by the DuPont bands once again for the classic “Jump in the Line,” recognizable from “Beetlejuice.”

Steel drumming has a rich history, originating in Trinidad in the 1930s and ‘40s. Soca and Calypso tunes are common styles played on the instruments, but Steel ‘Dores has also played video game music, pop songs, jazz, funk and more in their performances. 

“We go into the cultural significance in class instead of just learning how to play the instrument,” Britain said. “It came about through slavery and colonial rule. Every other instrument had been taken away from these people of African descent, so they started banging on garbage cans and paint cans and whatever else they could find. That’s how the early steel bands came about.”

Watching the show from the audience, it was clear to see the passion and joy present in the performers. For example, Earp, who is one of very few students who have been in the band for all eight semesters here at Vanderbilt, found love for steel drumming among her other musical ensembles as a composition major.

“Composition majors like myself are required to participate in one ensemble of our choice for our degree, and steel band is one of the default options,” Earp said. “However, I’ve gone on to be in many ensembles in Blair and have continued steel band not as a requirement but because I enjoy it so much!”

Earp also commented on the reasons why steel drumming holds a special place in her college student life.

“Music majors take part in countless stressful performances, so it’s really rewarding and enjoyable to participate in something purely because we like music. For non-music majors, it’s also a chance to continue the musical education they had in high school and connect with others who had the same experience,” Earp said.

Another student, senior Eleanor Vander Laan also comes from a musical background but having no previous percussion experience, they joined Steel ‘Dores as a member of the black band and are now in the gold band.

“I love getting to play an instrument that is very different from what I usually play. I’m a trumpet player by trade, so playing the steel drums is a fun challenge!” Vander Laan said.

Britain echoed the sentiment of why steel drumming is so appealing and accessible for students of all musical backgrounds, and it makes for a lovely performance to watch.

“The sound of the instrument is honestly just such a joyous sound, and I think that’s a big draw,” Britain said. “Once you learn the basics, you’re off and running. Some of the people on stage have only been playing for 13 or 14 weeks.”

From the beginner groups to the most advanced, all of the ensembles came together to create a show that had Ingram Hall filled with beautiful sounds the entire night. It was amazing to experience the melodious music steel drums create.

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About the Contributors
Chloe Whalen
Chloe Whalen, Staff Writer
Chloe Whalen (‘27) is from Herscher, Ill., and is studying communication of science and technology in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Deputy Life Editor. In her spare time, she enjoys running, listening to multiple genres of music and podcasts and doing jigsaw puzzles. She can be reached at [email protected].
Isabella Bautista
Isabella Bautista, Life Copy Editor
Isabella Bautista (‘26) is double majoring in mathematics and psychology and minoring in biological sciences on the pre-medical track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Easton, Pa. When not writing for The Hustler, she can be found spending hours alone in a piano practice room, photographing Vanderbilt squirrels with her Canon camera or poring over research papers in the lab she works in. She can be reached at [email protected]  
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Mat Britain
1 month ago

Thank you for doing such a wonderful review & article on our recent concert. So well written! Bravo to the Hustler!

G
George Albu
1 month ago

Great job on this 🙂