In addition to conducting short term residential programs featuring guest musicians from around the world, we support an ongoing community steel drum ensemble. This program was created thanks to local music teachers Brent and Chad Rose who came to our board asking for an activity that would support the school's music education program and have a permanent impact in the community. So, steel drum.
Since 2006, Buffalo, Wyoming has been home to two steel drum Ensembles: Pan Buffalo, a community steel drum group, and an ensemble that is part of the Buffalo High School Percussion class. The high school students christened their group the Buffalo High School Tatanka Pan Band. Tatanka is the Lakota word for Buffalo, so since we’re in Buffalo and the high school mascot is the Bison and the steel drum group is Tatanka, we have the Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo pan band.
The Buffalo High School Percussion class read Shannon Dudley’s Carnival Music in Trinidad and watched the films Mas’ Fever and One Hand Don’t Clap. Discussion helped students situate steel drum historically and culturally. This class was the first in a Wyoming high school to include steel drum and to include ethnomusicology in the school curriculum. Following the reading and discussion pan master Tom Miller gave workshops in Buffalo. Tom performs with Pan Ramajay and directs the steel drum program at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music.
After a long day of rehearsing, Buffalo High's Tatanka Pan Band performed at the elementary and middle schools. Younger students had an opportunity to hear the music, to hear a talk on the music’s history, and to ask questions. Many of these younger children have spoken about how “cool” the pan ensemble was and how much they want to be a part of it when they are older. That evening the group performed during half time of a high school basketball tournament.
Tom also spent a day working with the community group—Pan Buffalo. In addition to playing for the annual pig roast Pan Buffalo members, high school pan players, and local band The Fireants performed for a holiday open house. This included a chili and hot chocolate supper before the town’s Christmas parade so several hundred people heard steel drum, many for the first time.
This was a winter performance of Pan Buffalo at the Wshakie Museum and Cultural Center in Worland, Wyoming following Pan's annual participation in the Buffalo Christmas Parade, an outdoor performance atop a flat bed trailer. And it doesn't matter the temperature. One year Tom Miller played with the group and vowed never to return in winter though he was bundled up in down pants and coat so that he looked like the Michelin man. At one Xmas parade it was 18 below zero. We think we're the pan group that has played outside in the coldest temperature ever.
Steel drum has been a beautiful and powerful presence in our town and state. It is a vehicle for new musical sound and for increased awareness of the diversity of peoples on this earth. It was a large and meaningful step for Worlds of Music and the community to move from short term programs with guest musicians to the creation of a permanent community ensemble devoted to the place of music in culture. We're grateful to the UW honors program for supporting pan as part of its curriculum.