Juan Diego will host the State Steel Drum Festival

Friday, Feb. 04, 2011
Juan Diego will host the State Steel Drum Festival + Enlarge
Juan Diego Catholic High School students prepare to perform in the State Steel Drum Festival with junior high and high schools from throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

DRAPER — Juan Diego Catholic High School will host the Utah State Steel Drum Festival, a multi-school competition featuring Caribbean-style steel drums, Feb. 12.

Bands from Juan Diego, Saint John the Baptist Middle School, American Fork High and Junior High schools, West High School, Riverton High School, Timpanogos High School and Pleasant Grove Junior High will participate in this clinic and concert. "This state-wide festival will feature each band performing for a half an hour, followed by each band working one-on-one with a guest clinician," said Jed Blodgett, Juan Diego orchestra, percussion ensemble, steel drum and drumline director. Blodgett also is the director for percussion, steel drum band, and 6th grade band and orchestra at St. John the Baptist Middle School.

Two guest clinicians will critique the bands and teach them skills. The clinics will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a concert at 3 p.m., with a performance by Brigham Young University’s (BYU) steel drum band, and guest artist, Tom Miller soloing with the group, Pan Jam. "Miller is a well-known steel-band composer and arranger and has toured all over the world," Blodgett said. "He is the leader of a steel-drum group called Pan Ramajay. I have listened to them for years and purchased arrangements and compositions he has written. I called and asked him if he would like to come to our festival. He teaches at the University of Denver in Colorado, and was happy to come because we are so close."

This is the second year for the festival. Blodgett said a steel drum festival had been talked about for many years, but it didn’t come about until last year when he started teaching at Juan Diego. Soaring Eagle band director Dave Faires asked him to host it.

Steel drums were invented within the last 100 years. "The man who invented them was Ellie Mannette," said Blodgett, who studied music education at BYU with an emphasis in percussion. "Mannette is still alive and I worked with him while I was in college.

"Steel drums come from Trinidad and Tobago, not Jamaica, where most people think they come from," Blodgett added. "They came about during Carnival season when 50-gallon oil drums washed up on shore from the war. They started to play them as a drum. After a while, they discovered if they hammered them down and stretched the metal, they could get different notes. So they started designing the drums to get different ranges of high and low notes.

As an instrument, steel drums have become extremely popular over the past 50 years, Blodgett said. "Groups have started in the U.S., and in high schools and universities," he said. "They play Calypso and Soca music on the steel drums. Around Carnival season they have a big Panorama festival, which features a competition between bands. It’s common for one steel band to have as many as 200 members. At other times of the year, they have a classical music festival where steel drum bands play music by Beethoven, Chopin or Bach. People have also started to play rock-n-roll, jazz and every other genre of music."

The Feb. 12 concert at Juan Diego Catholic High School is free and open to the public. "We want people to come and appreciate and understand the culture of steel drum music," Blodgett said.

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