Steel Pan comes to UND


Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson

UND Steel Pan band members perform Monday evening on Nov. 7 at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

Nick Sallen, Editor-in-Chief

A dozen band members ran onto the Chester Fritz Auditorium stage to start the Steel Pan Band Concert. Wearing floral patterned shirts to enhance the carribean theme, the band immediately started playing “Yumbambe,” a Cuban calypso tune with solos from the lead pan section.

“My favorite pans were the bass and lead pans,” Maxwell McCann, a junior first-year member of the ensemble, said. “Leads because of the melody, bass because you’re in the center of six pans and they all reverberate around you and you do a lot of moving around, so it’s easier to get into it.”

Most of the band members hail from North Dakota and a majority are percussion majors. This year, the band was a little bit smaller than usual with 13 performers in the ensemble. Hannah Carlson, David Fehr, Mitch Geiger, Frankie Good, Elijah Gray, Alec Hepper, Brandon Hettwer, Isaac Jensen, Maxwell McCann, Jason Master, Rachel Again Muniz, Jake Robinson and Yuesen Yang comprised this year’s steel pan band.

“The whole ensemble in general is focused on feeling the rhythm more so than a choir of band because of the percussive instruments,” McCann said. “There’s a challenge in being in a solely percussion-based group. Singing, you can fudge your rhythm and still sound right, in this you either hit it on the beat or you don’t.”

UND Steel Pan band members perform Monday, Nov. 7 at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.
Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson
UND Steel Pan band members perform Monday, Nov. 7 at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

Summer performing arts (SPA) owns the steel pan band equipment. Every fall, SPA leases out the drums they use during their summer music camps to UND for the steel pan band to use. Normal tuning is required yearly, but the excellent  condition of the drums only requires tuning every two years.

“I played pans when I was in SPA. We had a mini two-week long class, so there was a bit of a learning curve when I joined the group.” McCann said.

“There’s a sweet spot on the drum for each note. A larger note requires a softer hit,” UND Director of Jazz Studies and Applied Percussion Michael Blake said.

The list of songs played by the band included a few classic hits such as “Imagine” by John Lennon, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by Sting, and “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel. The two ladder songs were arranged by instructor Christopher Gable.

“All of the music written or arranged by faculty members were really good,” McCann said.

Typically, a steel pan band is broken down into four sections which play in unison to produce exotic percussive sounds. The four sections are lead, mid-range and bass pans and the engine room.

The engine room has “all sorts of odd percussion instruments,” Blake explained. Together, they create the timing and rhythm foundation for the rest of the band.

The four frontline pans are known as lead pans. They provide the melody and can be easily distinguished by their high pitch. Mid-range pans are known for their warm and mellow tone which add complementary harmony to the melody. Bass drums, which resemble oil drums, are the foundation of the ensemble and add more harmony to the melody.

Band equipment and additional support for the steel pan ensemble go out to the Myra Foundation, Brad Sherwood, Dean Opp, Brian Pfeiffer, Janice Hoffarth, Tammy Mulske, Catherine Olson, the UND Music Department, Chester Fritz Auditorium Administration and personnel of plant services and the Steel Pan Alumni Fund.

The University of North Dakota University Band and Steel Pan Band will host their winter holiday concert on Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m. The performance will be in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Tickets will be made available at the door. For a price of $7.00 for adults, $3.00 for students and senior citizens, or $14.00 per family.

Nick Sallen is the editor-in-chief for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]