CONTACT: JENNY BURMAN
CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
River City Steel ensemble will perform Dec. 5 and Dec. 12
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- River City Steel, the unique steel-pan ensemble at
the University of Iowa School of Music, will present two performances,
at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5 in Voxman Hall on the UI campus and at 9 p.m.,
Friday, Dec. 12, in the Wheel Room of the Iowa Memorial Union. Both concerts
are free and open to the public.
River City Steel is the first School of Music ensemble devoted to public
performances of music from a non-European tradition. Directed by T.M. Scruggs,
an ethnomusicologist and a professor in the UI School of Music, the group
is a 20-person ensemble of music students playing music on steel pans,
also known as steel drums.
The instruments, which originate from the Caribbean island nation of
Trinidad and Tobago, are constructed from 55-gallon metal oil drums. The
versatile instruments have a remarkable sound that is immediately recognizable
and is widely associated with Caribbean cultures.
River City Steel has various pans for eight players, ranging from single
pans that carry high notes to a bass that requires six drums. Together
with the "engine room" -- the percussion section -- the pans
offer a special combination of melody, harmony and driving rhythm.
The concerts will feature selections of Trinidadian soca (a word formed
from the combination of "soul" and "calypso"); "Precioso,"
an original piece by Scruggs; reggae-influenced compositions and Jamaican
One of the ska instrumentals will be the James Bond theme, before which
members of the audience will be invited up to the stage to learn how to
play the first part of the piece.
Scruggs started the steel pan ensemble in 1994, as a volunteer project
in an effort to widen the multicultural musical environment for his students
at the UI and for the community. The ensemble is offered for credit to
music and non-music students alike.
Scruggs explained, "The steel pan ensemble provides a 'hands-on'
musical experience that helps bring alive for students the traditions of
Scruggs' principal instrument is the piano. He learned Nicaraguan marimba
while doing research in that country for his doctorate from the University
of Texas at Austin. Before entering graduate school Scruggs played Haitian
popular music and salsa in several bands in Chicago.