Setting the tempo in Trinidad

Graduate student Brett Morris and senior Marcus Rattler-Blevins took a four-week journey to the heart and soul of steel pan music after a semester of music and percussion.

Morris and Rattler-Blevins took music professor Michael Bump’s “Steel Pan Music of Trinidad and Tobago” class to learn about a genre of music that stemmed from leftover oil drums from World War II, and have spent multiple years in the Truman
Steel Pan Ensemble.

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Graduate student Brett Morris (left) and senior Marcus Rattler-Blevins (right) meet with Liam Teague, professor at Northern Illinois University and the musical arranger for The Silver Stars. Submitted photo.

Bump says he took a sabbatical during 2011 that allowed him to go to Port of Spain in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for seven weeks. He says the trip inspired him to come back to Truman and start a steel pan percussion ensemble.

More recently, Bump said Liam Teague, a world-renowned steel pan drum percussionist and professor at Northern Illinois University, listened to the Truman steel drum ensemble play and was impressed by the talent he heard. Bump says Teague invited Truman steel drum percussionists to Trinidad to perform with The Silver Stars, one of the Trinidadian bands he was arranging music for and leading, an invitation which Morris and Rattler-Blevins accepted.

“When that invitation came about, I encouraged them to beg, borrow or steal but get on that plane and get down there because this is going to be one heck of an experience,” Bump says.

The students participated in drumming competitions with The Silver Stars, including the finals of an international competition, which were televised worldwide with an audience of about 75,000 people.

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