Cultural Harmony week highlights non-western traditions through steel drums

As part of Geneseo’s Cultural Harmony week, two drum workshops were held at the Knight Spot on Oct. 21 and Friday Oct. 23. Cultural Harmony Week is an annual occurrence that takes place during the week of United Nations Day, which is on Oct. 24. Cultural Harmony Week addresses a variety of community and diversity issues and emphasizes the importance of non-Western traditions. Steel drum player Ted Canning offered a hands-on experience for the students who wanted to learn how to play his instrument. Canning began by teaching simple notes and chords, with each element he taught coming together at the end for one full song. While he aided every student in order to make sure they were playing correctly, many students were seen helping one another learn the instrument.

Canning placed a particular focus on making sure each student was enjoying themselves, as well as encouraging a positive collective dynamic. He had an entertaining sense of humor—it’s clear that he enjoys working with students.

Canning has been directing the Steel Alchemy Community Steel Band since 2001. Anyone who is at least 13 years old can join. The band has played at various concerts, including Geneseo festivals and concert series.

Canning and his wife Karen are also members of a smaller steel drum band called Panloco, which formed in 1995. The band features both the steel drums with vocals and percussion. Besides playing at private parties, they have also offered workshops for colleges in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Karen Canning also spoke of how her husband made steel drums with kids—which taught them both about music and about mat because of the acoustics in the instrument.  “[The steel drums] are easier for kids to play because they are [physically] not difficult to play,” she said.

Ted Canning seems to have gotten the best experience in learning and playing the steel drum because, according to his wife, he learned and played them several times in Trinidad—where the instrument originated.

“We both studied African, Ghana[ian] and Caribbean history and culture,” she added.

Ted Canning seemed very enthusiastic and successfully got all of the students involved in his teaching of the steel drums. Although it might have been difficult for some students to get the hang of playing at first, the songs they all performed came together almost perfectly in the end.

This musical workshop was a great representation of Cultural Harmony Week at Geneseo. Each student involved got to work with an instrument from a different part of the world, all while collaborating with their peers and a great teacher.