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New York Panorama 2005

Steel Drum Festival
drums up musical talent
St Nicholas School  Wins


South Africa - St Nicholas School Grade 9 band has won the 11th Steel Drum Festival High School Trophy for their performance of The Bear Necessities and House of the Rising Sun.

In a sun drenched Durban Botanic Gardens thirty bands played with all their might to win one of the nine trophies that were up for grabs. Learners, proud parents and grandparents and general spectators gathered in delightful surroundings to enjoy the morning of music.

Bryan Clarke, the Director of the Steel Drum Foundation said, “we are incredibly proud of the growth of our project over the last 11 years. The bands who have won today have played their hearts out. Learners love being able to express themselves musically, and the judges have commented on how the standards have improved over the years.”

“St. Nicholas has won this trophy for the second year running. Their principal Mike Ford Is an enthusiastic supporter of the programme and they have five different bands. St. Nicholas school are dedicated to playing Steel Drums and their hard work is paying off.”

“Being part of a band not only develops an appreciation of music, it teaches discipline, co-ordination and teamwork. It also builds self-confidence – the children are proud to represent their school,” commented Mike Ford.

“Once they have experienced the thrill of playing they never miss a practice. They play in an unrestrained atmosphere, dancing to the music and loving every minute of it.”

The St. Nicholas School entered four bands in this year’s event, their Grade 6 Band walked away with the Troubadour Trophy. When each of their bands were performing the other bands danced and sang to support their school

Caroline Smart, one of the judges commented that when evaluating a band, they look at how they perform compared to other schools in their category, and they also look at the improvement over the year before.

Caroline Smart has been a judge at this event since it first started. She commented at the prize giving that the change over the years, and in particular this year is extraordinary. Initially there was more bashing of the drums than music, but the contestants are becoming extremely proficient and the range of music now includes a little classics and many popular songs in addition to the old favourites.

This is truly a rainbow nation project which gives anybody that would like to be involved,

After overcoming initial nervousness, everyone who performed at this year’s festival showed a love for this wonderful rhythmic music and energy filled the air as dozens of KZN learners beat large half-moon shaped steel drums, eyes sparkling with concentration and vitality. Hand actions and some dancing completed a delightful day.


Background to the Steel Drum Festival
They are among 2 400 learners making up more than 90 different bands who eagerly look forward to their weekly lesson given by one of the six teachers of the Steel Drum Foundation.

Founded by professional musicians Bryan Clarke and Dobri Paliev, the Steel Drum Foundation was established 11 years ago to enable KZN youngsters to experience the multiple benefits of being part of a steel drum band.

‘Anyone who expects the steel drums to sound like ordinary drums are in for a wonderful surprise,’ said Bryan. ‘Although the action is the same – you beat the oil drums with sticks – they are far more versatile. They can produce any tune from ‘Yellow Bird’ to ‘Rock around the clock’ and the catchy island rhythm and rich tones make you itch to get up and clap along.’

‘What is so exciting about the steel drum is that it is so easy to learn ‘ says Bryan. ‘ Using our specially developed teaching methodology, children with no musical training are quickly able to pick up the basic techniques. We can introduce a brand new song at the start of a lesson and they will be playing it quite well by the end of the lesson.’

‘We are changing lives here. The lesson is the high point of the week for many of the children, particularly those from impoverished backgrounds who have little opportunity for constructive and fun leisure activities.’

‘Music is my passion,’ says Bryan. ‘I love what I do and it is a delight to watch a child enjoy developing new skills and abilities.‘

‘Nedbank has been a longstanding supporter of the arts,’ says Elizabeth Maepa, the company’s head of corporate banking in KwaZulu-Natal.

‘This programme opens up an exciting new dimension of empowerment and education for youngsters who would not otherwise be able to experience the delights of learning to play an instrument and performing in public. It offers young people accessible musical education, a constructive and healthy alternative to inactivity and so much more. We are delighted to be involved with such a worthwhile project.’


For more information Bryan Clarke can be contacted on 083 777 6762.
Phone Mike Ford of St. Nicholas School on 033 345 1566.


All the winners are:

1. KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Spirit Trophy.
Awarded to the band that captures something a little different.
Presented to Maris Stella School. Mrs. Thompson was present to receive the trophy from Elizabeth Maepa of Nedbank.

2. Artsmart Rising Star Trophy
Presented to Willem Tier of the Browns School Grade 5 Band for his delightful performance. Willem was totally focused on the conductor and has mastered the art of playing his steel drum.

3. The most improved junior school band, The Botanic Gardens Trophy
Presented to St. Henry’s Marist Bros’ School Rowan Hutchinson and Erin Honneysett received the trophy.

Steel Drum Foundation Trophy for the best single tune performed. Presented to Embury College Grade 2 for Obladi Oblada.

6. Troubedor Trophy to St. Nicholas Grade 6 Band.

7. Nedbank Trophy for the winning Primary School went to Rivermead School in Kokstad – Grade 6 Band.

8. Runner up High School Trophy to Ridge Park College.

9. St. Nic G9:
The winner of the 11th Steel Drum Festival Competition High School Trophy is St. Nicholas School Grade 9 band. St. Nicholas School is in Pietermaritzburg.
Pictured with Nosipho Mkhize who received the trophy on behalf of the Band are from left, Bryan Clarke, Elizabeth Maepa of Nedbank, and Dolbri Paliev.




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