Hot, steamy calypso rhythms and the formal strains of a classical symphony are being intertwined by a pair of Xavier musicians. Associate professor of music Kaleel Skeirik and Bruce Weil, who earned a teaching certificate in Montessori education in 1996 and is the steel band director at nearby Clark Montessori High School, are collaborating on an original symphony to be performed in March by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Clark’s student-led steel drum band.
“We’re making a statement,” Skeirik says. “We’re bringing steel drums and injecting them with a really heavy dose of Western classical tradition. It’s very exciting because the steel drums are just so amplified by the orchestra and the orchestra is so enriched by the steel drum sound.”
The 10-minute score, which requires 30 parts for 140 musicians, is called “Caribbean Voyage: Suite for Pan and Orchestra.” The $9,500 project, partially funded by a grant from 1955 graduate John Grissmer, began when CSO directors asked Weil to audition the band for its children’s Lollipop series. He brainstormed with Skeirik, whose daughter attended Clark, about mixing the two genres. Because so little music exists combining steel drums and orchestra instruments, an original score was created.
The combination, though, allows the steel drum to demonstrate its full potential, says Weil. “It’s the only new instrument created in the 20th century,” he says, “and it’s still an instrument of the people.”