Over the winter break, twelve students in Julie Searles’s MUSC 204 class, Innovative Music Traditions of Trinidad and Tobago, were able to spend eleven days in Trinidad and Tobago. This was Searles’s sixth time bringing students to Trinidad. While on the trip, the students were able to witness some of the country’s most celebrated steel bands prepare for Carnival.
Before going to Trinidad, the class spent the semester learning about Trinidadian musical traditions. Steel drum bands, such as Wheaton’s own Lymin’ Lyons, have evolved significantly over the years. The percussive ensembles started out using trash, such as biscuit tins and oil drums, and then developed into the form that we are familiar with today. Julie Searles loves that, “steel bands allow people without any musical experience to play,” making the music very relatable and accessible.
Learning about music in the classroom has its perks and can be rewarding in itself, but traveling to the country where the music originated and being immersed in the culture can completely change the way the music is perceived. Searles explains that videos and recordings of these musicians don’t accurately capture what it’s like to actually watch them in person. “The energy is really quite extraordinary,” she remarks.
During the trip, the students visited a variety of pan yards where they were able to witness the lively and energetic performances of Trinidad’s best steel bands. With Carnival approaching, the groups were naturally practicing extra hard to make sure they will give the best performance possible.
The trip was a great opportunity for Searles’s students to fully experience the subject they devoted a semester to studying and an experience they won’t forget.
Categories: Arts and Culture