Percussion Students at 11-Day Event in Caribbean

Three students are banging the drum all day for Eastern Kentucky University – on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

EKU percussion students Christopher Cardaci, graduate student from New Bedford, Mass.; D’ante McNeal, senior from Dayton, Ohio; and Zac Cordle, freshman from Trion, Ga., are participating in the Panorama Educational Program, organized by Dr. Jason Koontz, director of percussion studies, in collaboration with the Birdsong Musical Academy in Trinidad. The 11-day program provides the students with the opportunity to study and participate in musical art forms indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago during the musical-arts season.

The EKU students are participating in workshops and masterclasses on Caribbean music at the Birdsong Academy of Music, rehearsing with the 120-member Birdsong Steel Orchestra under the direction of Grammy Award winner Andy Narell, and performing with the Birdsong Steel Orchestra at “Panorama,” the world’s largest steel band competition in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They will also visit several cultural attractions and take a guided factory tour of Gill’s Pan Shop, Trinidad’s largest exporter/distributor of steel drum instruments.

Koontz, who directs EKU’s steel band, advocates regularly for international travel and contextual learning for his students.

“I feel the development of world music ensembles, particularly steel bands, in the public schools, colleges, and universities nationwide demonstrates an increased awareness of music educators regarding growing globalization and a mandate to address the needs of the United States' diverse population,” Koontz said. “This Panorama Educational Program that I developed with the Birdsong Music Academy during my sabbatical in Spring 2014 will provide EKU students with a cultural and historical context and insight into the music of Afro-Caribbean culture that helps to foster a curiosity and an understanding of diversity.”

The students' “homework” for the Trinidad experience was to memorize a 10-minute composition for performance in the National Panorama Competition.

“This requires the students to analyze and comprehend the music in terms of meter, rhythm, melody, harmony, form, dynamic inflection, and nuance, while also relating their individual part to other melodic and/or rhythmic elements within the ensemble,” Koontz said. “Additionally, there is the kinesthetic aspect to performing and mastering the music that must be developed. In the case of steel drumming, it usually translates to sticking choice and body position. This physical training requires a certain degree of problem solving, and critical thinking/listening skills to determine which sticking option produces the most consistent musical sound and fluidity.

“From a performance standpoint, this experience will enhance their musicianship, which in turn benefits the various ensembles they perform in at EKU.”

Koontz invited many college and high school educators who oversee steel band programs in the U.S. In addition to the EKU students Koontz selected for the Trinidad trip, approximately 30 other college students and instructors from across the U.S. are participating in the program.

In past years, Koontz has organized and taken EKU students on study tours to India and Brazil.

Published on January 22, 2015

Quick Links