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Unbuntu: Steel Pan Spirit


WESTFIELD, Ind. (Dec. 12, 2018) - Passionate Steel Pan players at WHS often share a common realization when their trimester comes to an end: a part of their daily routine seems to be missing from their lives. In a time when most teens get their music fix by sticking in earbuds and purposefully avoiding all human interaction, Steel Pan students have the distinction of knowing what it’s like to join forces with others to make music come to life. They miss that dearly. But on Wednesdays during Rocks Connection, the Steel Pan Club revamps that lost social layer of music, and it’s striking a chord among eager pan alumni.

“You mean Steel Pan Boyband?” Bridget Arnold (12) said. “That’s what I call it, but I don’t know if anyone else calls it that.”

Staying true to the mantra of the class, club members demonstrate Unbuntu: “I am because we are.” A supportive, small-scale group lets each person try new songs and branch out to new pans without worrying about grades.

“There’s a lot more freedom to share ideas and kind of choose the way I want to do things,” Lily Partlow (12) said. “I get to know different people.”

The mastermind behind the whole operation, Mr. McLaughlin, is planning a possible visit to a steel pan festival in April. Former students and club members alike appreciate his kindness, which his teaching style reflects.

“We get to hang out with our lord and savior Jeff McLaughlin, which is delightful, and he’s just a great, great teacher,”Arnold said.

For the first time in Steel Pan “Boyband” history, the ensemble performed various classics for the packed crowd at the Boys’ Varsity Basketball game— in their tackiest holiday sweaters, of course. “Glory to Old Westfield,” Van Halen’s “Jump” and “London is the Place for Me” were some songs to name a few.

“The basketball game is our first club performance, and I’m looking forward to the future games,”Claire Douglass (12) said.

Since brain scans taken during musical performances have shown that virtually the entire cerebral cortex activates when musicians perform, the engagement and investment each Steel Pan player puts into their craft is now scientifically verified. With exciting upcoming events on the calendar, like the third annual Taste of Trinidad on Jan. 21, the club members are ready to once again “steel” the show, one song at a time.

“I loved the concert,” Partlow said. “I used to be a choir kid, and I really missed performing. I used to be a dancer, and I’m used to performing, so it’s fun.”

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