Steel Drums at MNU
The steel drum program at MidAmerica Nazarene University had its impetus in Dr. Terry Baldridge's interest in ethnomusicology and his desire to introduce MNU students to the music of other cultures. An emphasis on multi-cultural music at MNU began around 1990 when Dr. Baldridge developed seminars in ethnomusicology for music students. These seminars have covered the music of Appalachia, Ghana, Japan, and the Philippines. Through his desire to focus on a music culture that seemed to be more closely connected to Western musical styles and therefore have greater accessibility and perhaps more appeal to students, Dr. Baldridge began studying steel drums and their music.
In December 2000 a tenor steel drum was ordered from a maker in Trinidad. Additional instruments were purchased until the basic ensemble of tenor, double seconds, double guitar, and six bass was completed in the Spring of 2001. During this period, Dr. Baldridge began writing arrangements for the group to perform and ensemble members were chosen. In May 2001 rehearsals began.
The first performances of the MNU Steelband were in August 2001. Three performances on consecutive days were presented for the MNU Faculty and Staff, the Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival, and a Multi-Cultural Traditional Music Festival in Shawnee, Kansas.
During the regular academic semesters the steelband rehearses twice each week and performs in a variety of settings on campus (chapel, meetings, dinners) and in the community (festivals, schools, churches, meetings).
With the fall semester of 2007 the taiko ensemble ceased to be a regular performing ensemble. It has now been incorporated into a world music ensemble class offered primarily for MNU music students.