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Trinidad is the Home of Steel Band -

But For One Week In July Morgantown, WV Becomes the Center of the Steel Band Universe

  July 15, 2005

Morgantown, West Virginia  – Dr. Ellie Mannette’s 13th Annual Festival of Steel brought Trinidad’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Marina Valere and a number of legendary performers, including Ray Holman, Robert Greenidge and Jeff Narell to Morgantown’s Historic Downtown District July 3-9th - to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Mannette and Trinidad’s musical gift to the world: the steel pan.

Trinidad’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Marina Valere (center) is pictured at the Festival of Steel’s VIP Reception with Dr. Ellie Mannette (right of Ambassador) and the 2005 ‘Festival of Steel Faculty (pic left to right) Chris Tanner, Jim Munzenrider, Tom Miller , Ray Holman, Jeff Narell, Robert Greenidge and Alan Lightner.

This year’s Festival of Steel also brought nearly 75 people from all across the United States for a workshop and concert series focused on the art of playing the steel drum instrument and further solidified the growing relationship between Mannette’s adopted home Morgantown, WV and his homeland, Trinidad and Tobago.

Ambassador Valere paid homage to the steel pan and Trinidad and Tobago as keynote speaker at the Festival’s VIP Banquet, Thursday, July 7 at the Historic Clarion Hotel Morgan. Earlier that same day, The Ambassador was special guest at a luncheon, sponsored by WVU’s Creative Arts Center and Morgantown’s Chamber of Commerce, where Morgantown City officials welcomed the Ambassador to the area. Morgantown was recently voted one of the best small towns in America and is increasingly interested in developing a substantive economic and educational relationship with Trinidad and Tobago, as evidence in comments made by the Mayor of Morgantown, Ron Justice; Scott Rotruck, Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and Stacy Brodak, Director of the Visitor’s and Convention Bureau and others.

Ray Holman (left) Robert Greenidge (center) and Jeff Narell headline the Festival’s Faculty Showcase on Thursday, July 7, at downtown Morgantown’s Rosewood Theatre.

The Ambassador ended her full day of a luncheon, banquet, and media interviews by attending the Festival’s Faculty Showcase, 8p at Morgantown’s Rosewood Theatre. This perfomance featured faculty luminaries (Greenidge, Holman and Narell – to name a few) playing original music and demonstrated their enviable skills.

Dr. Mannette, who now lives and teaches in Morgantown, used the occasion of this year’s Festival, to announce the launching of his new non profit, The Mannette Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to promote the educational, scientific and entrepreneurial viability of the steel drum instrument – while preserving the legacy of the creators and will be directed by Kaethe George, Mannette’s long time business partner.

Ambassador Marina Valere (center) meets with Scott Rotruck (left) Director of Morgantown’s Greater Chamber of Commerce and Dr. Ellie Mannette at the Festival of Steel’s temporary offices at the Historic Clarion Hotel Morgan.

The Festival of Steel is hosted each year by, Mannette Steel Drums, Ltd., a local company that is one of the largest producers of steel drums in the world and is founded by the legendary Dr. Ellie Mannette, “Father of the Modern Steel Drum” and Kaethe George. Mannette Steel Drums, Ltd., is joined by West Virginia University and the City of Morgantown, to support and promote this annual event.

“Steel Drummin’ Downtown” was the theme of this year’s Festival, which attracts professional musicians, music educators, students, and enthusiasts from all across the United States – indeed the world! The participants have not only a wide age range -(from about 10 years to nearly 70 years) - but also cover a wide range of musical experience – (from complete novice to consummate professional performer). The Festival has been growing in popularity and has something to offer everyone. In fact, over the last few years the event has grown into a strong family venue, where parents travel with their young people to experience the workshop together – as evidence by a 22 member group of children and parents traveling from New Mexico.

Festival participants take a break before Finale Concert preparation to take a group shot. The more than 70 participants spanned a wide range of ages (from 10 years to almost 70) and musical experiences (from complete novice to experienced performer).

Guest faculty Greenidge, Narell and Holman were joined by Tom Miller, Alan Lightner, Jim Munzenrider and Chris Tanner. Many of the faculty have returned several times over the Festival’s 13 year history, with Tom Miller, San Fransisco resident and recording artist/educator - holding the record, having been involved since the Festival’s inception 13 years ago.

The Festival week culminated with the Festival’s Finale Concert, Saturday, July 9, 2005 at the Ruby McQuain Amphitheatre. All Festival attendees participated and played on more than 200 drums where a variety of songs included: classical piece- Giordano’s “Caro Mio”, Hip Hop’s – “Get busy”, by Sean Paul and Bossa Nova great Louis Bonfa’s, “Samba de Orfeo” - along with an acoustically intense rendition of Rudder’s, “The Hammer” and Holman’s “Life’s Too Short”.


Dr. Ellie Mannette (far right) is pictured with his staff of Master Builders and Tuners at Mannette Steel Drums, LTD. (Pictured left to right) Chanler Bailey, President/CFO; Jon Vehse; Eric Fountain; April Moncrief; Glenn Rowsey and Robert Davis.

mannette steel drums


July 15, 2005

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