Steel pan band pulsates in Brooklyn

March 30, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
It's not your typical high school band. Instead, a group of Brooklyn students are banging on steel and congo drums to learn all about the music of the Carribean. Education reporter Art McFarland shows us a class where kids want to stay and play all day.

It's vibrant and loud, beautiful noise. In Crown Heights, the International Arts Business School is pulsating with the sounds of steel.

And no, it's not your typical high school band. That's why Latoya Hamilton loves playing in a steel pan band.

"Prior to this class I had intermediate band and I played the flute, but I really couldn't get into it. I had too much rhythm, so I joined this class and I never regretted changing my class," student Latoya Hamilton said.

It used to be an after-school program. Then, two years ago, teacher Peter Van de Water came onboard and the sounds of the Caribbean were put in the school curriculum.

"It's very approachable in that all the notes are laid out in front of them and our pans have the notes labeled and it's easy to sound good on very quickly," said Peter Van de Water/International Arts Business School.

The high school partners with the organization "Young Audiences," which provides teaching artists to help to fine-tune the class.

Class attendance is not a problem.

"I come here 9th period, sometimes I try to sneak in when i have a class," student Daishon Huges said.

"When its time stop you can't get me out...I know it's time to get out," said another student.

Many of the students have family roots in the islands. For them, steel pan instruments are a perfect fit.

And they can't get enough of the music.

"We have a lot of fun, it's like a big party," one student said.

"When you have the whole band, it's a great sound... I just love to nail a song," Latoya says.

The students will be taking their music on the road, sort of. They'll be playing outdoors at the Wingate Campus Arts Festival.

The International Art Business School is located on that campus.