Walla Walla College Holds First International Steel Drumb Band Tour

The Walla Walla College steel drum band performs in Bermuda.Source: Walla Walla College

[May 7, 2007] Shortly before midnight on March 14, 2007, 15 people boarded a quiet plane. The members of the Walla Walla College (WWC) Steel Drum Band drifted off to sleep or into the world of satellite television as the plane flew 3,700 miles from Seattle to Bermuda.

The WWC Steel Drum Band started in October 2002. When the drums were purchased with the help of a generous donation, the group was a dream come true for Brandon Beck, director of the WWC Steel Drum Band.

Steel drums are simply glorified 55-gallon oil barrels. The bottoms of the barrels are turned concave and then sections are raised to create bumps. When these bumps are struck with a rubber-tipped stick, a clear note is the result.

As steel drums originated in Trinidad, typical styles of music performed on these unique instruments are reggae, samba, and soca, styles you would expect to hear on the islands. These versatile instruments are, however, capable of playing in any style, including classical!

As the group made plans for Bermuda, delayed passports, too-small planes, luggage limits, and customs issues all posed real threats to the success of the tour.

"We experienced several miracles that made our trip possible," says Beck. "God helped us combat all the roadblocks Satan set up. It was a very reassuring feeling that we were doing God's will."

Between March 15 and 22, the group performed seven times on the tiny islands of Bermuda, some days playing multiple concerts. One performance was a joint effort with the steel drum group based at Bermuda Institute, the Seventh-day Adventist school in Bermuda.

In preparation for the joint concert, the WWC group held a workshop for the institute's steel drum students. For two hours, the two groups worked side by side, hammering out the old spiritual "Shut De Do'" line by line.

While at the institute, the WWC group participated in two chapel programs. It was a spiritual experience that left a lasting impression on many in the group.

"I thought it was awesome how the students really worshipped God through their praise service," says Kevin Ford, freshman engineering major. "It was what I envision true worship to be."

Although the main purpose of the trip was recruitment, the band had a little time for play as well. They explored caves, beaches, forts, dockyards and city streets. It was a chance to bond, an important element in a performing group.

"I liked how everyone made the newer people feel like we've been a part of the group forever," muses Noel Jabagat, freshman music major. "I think the group blends better musically because we spent so much time together."

Although the steel band does not travel regularly, they have enjoyed using music as a witnessing and recruiting tool in California, Tennessee, Florida, the San Juan Islands, and all over their home state of Washington.