Every year at the Goombay Festival in Bahama Village, Gerald Adams Elementary School brings a talented group of steel drummers and vocalists — the Steel Your Heart Pan Band — to perform.
Steel pan player Dylon Michaud, 9, said he loves doing it.
“I like the sound of the steel drum and hearing how well everybody sounds playing together,” said Michaud.
The group will play on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m., just steps off Petronia Street. Teacher and pianist Nora Revelin started the group nearly 20 years ago. Throughout the years, the band has become widely known with performances such as a Dolphins halftime show, MTV, Disney World, Busch Gardens, and Good Morning America.
“I went to a music conference and saw an elementary school band perform, so I got in touch with the right people and it started from there,” said Revelin. “We started with only a few pans and now we have an orchestra of 25 to 35 students.”
The band differs from other steel bands because it also includes vocals. They perform popular steel drum renditions of songs everybody knows such as “Yellow Submarine,” “Margaritaville,” and at “The Boardwalk,” lending each a Caribbean vibe.
The sounds are appropriate for Goombay Fest because of its Trinidad roots. Dr. Dawn Batson, of Florida Memorial University, has been an influential mentor for the Steel Your Heart Band, as well as dozens of groups throughout the world. She said the sound fits the celebration.
“The band recognizes the diverse community in Key West. It also represents the long traditions of Bahamian and Caribbean people in the Keys,” said Batson.
The Steel Your Heart Band plays several gigs a year and even does weddings and bar mitzvahs. The money earned goes to pay for the extremely expensive steel pans which cost nearly $1,000 each. Revel said playing music isn’t the hardest part of leading the band.
“The hardest part is moving all the heavy drums and equipment. If we did not have to do that, our shows would be much easier,” said Revelin.
Skylar Larmel, 10, has been with the group two years and hopes to continue with music in the future.
“I want to continue playing music through high school,” said Larmel. “I have so much with the band and made a lot of friends.”
All of the students agreed they are excited for their performance this weekend and are ready to play. Revelin plans to keep moving the group forward these years to come and appreciates the connection across the diverse school through music.