District Band Provides Experiences Outside of School

The Pans of Steel create a unique experience different from other school bands

What is a steel pan?

For some people, this will conjure up an image of an overly expensive pan on an infomercial, but for members of  Pans of Steel, it’s a vessel for musical creativity after school.

Pans of Steel is an extracurricular activity for anyone in the Puyallup School District interested in this unique instrument.

The steel pan is an instrument that originated in Trinidad and Tobago, constructed by cutting the top off an oil drum and hammering indentations into the bottom. When hit, this creates a note, and the notes are commonly arranged in the “circle of fifths,” which is a common way to arrange notes on the musical scale.

Sebastian Hernandez is the director of the group and a music teacher at Dessie Evans Elementary.

“Pans of Steel is a program where we get to play these instruments and do concerts and travel to different community settings to play for a lot of events,” Hernandez said.

There are five different groups with the highest level being the Calypso group, which students have to audition for.

Tatum Snyder, a junior at Rogers High School, discussed the performance schedules for the Calypso group.

“Sometimes we have six performances in a month and other times we go four months without having any [performances]. It just depends on what’s going on at the time. Sometimes we play shows at the elementary school [Hernandez] teaches at, sometimes at other schools or places,” Snyder said.

In addition, the group performs for more public events.

“A couple of years ago, we performed at the mall for a little holiday thing. A couple of times a year, we have some concerts at PLU or other colleges. And this year in early April, [the Calypso group is] going to Florida to perform at the National School Board meeting,” Snyder said.

The group also has performed at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

The music that the group plays is varied, with a setlist including traditional Caribbean music, soundtracks from the movies, music written especially for the steel pan, and even music you might expect to hear on the Top 40 radio stations.

Noah Leifson, a junior at Emerald Ridge High School, says he enjoys the friends he’s made in the group.

“A lot of my closest friends are in there… over the past seven years, it’s been really cool. It continues and grows with more people coming in,” Leifson said.

If you’re interested in joining, contact Sebastian Hernandez at [email protected].