The WWU Steel Band reprises their annual concert at Gesa Power House Theatre on Sunday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m. Joining the band in concert is steel pan arranger and composer Ray Holman.
Ray Holman began playing steel drums professionally at 13 with Ellie Mannette’s Invaders. As a teenager, he became known as a virtuoso solo player, becoming the youngest person ever to win the solo division of the “ping pong” (an early name for the tenor pan) competition in 1964. He traveled from group to group for a time, joining Starlift, Destination Tokyo, Pandemonium, Exodus, the Hummingbirds, and Phase II Pan Groove. During this time, he gained a reputation as one of the five major steel band arrangers, as he repeatedly led groups to victory in the Trinidadian national Panorama competitions, with arrangements for bands numbering up to 120 performers. He also gained a reputation for challenging the system to some degree by departing from the traditional Calypso tunes for the competitions, and in 1972 he became the first arranger to compose and play his own music for the Panorama competition. He also occasionally made arrangements from European classical music, much to the surprise of steel band traditionalists. As a result, he has become one of the most respected and sought after musicians in the steel band form, both as a solo player and as an arranger. In 1993, he was awarded the Hummingbird Silver Medal of Merit by the government of Trinidad and Tobago for his contributions to the culture of the nation.
The WWU Steel Band formed in 2002 and is directed by Brandon Beck. The group tours throughout the US and has also toured to the island of Bermuda. In previous years, they have performed with world-class steel pan artists such as Victor Provost, Gary Gibson, and Tom Miller.
Reserved seating tickets ($20-$15) are available online or by calling the box office at 509-529-6500. Proceeds from the concert go to support the WWU Steel Band through recruiting, touring, and purchasing instruments.