Have you ever listened to the relaxing rhythms of a steel drum band and wondered how they learned to play those tunes?
Believe it or not, St. Petersburg College can teach you.
Instructor Brian Scott teaches steel drums to SPC students who perform out in the community as well as play for fun during rehearsals.
Scott began his musical journey with steel drums as a sixth grader. He couldn’t read music, but had the passion to learn. SPC’s guitar and steel drum instructor Joe Braccio took a chance on Scott.
For the past 16 years, Scott has played steel drums in the music building on the St. Pete/Gibbs Campus under the guidance of Braccio. In 2020, however, Braccio stepped away from SPC to continue teaching the instrument at Eckerd College. That’s when he asked Scott to take his place.
“[Braccio] was probably one of the most influential music teachers I’ve ever had in my life and to take the position on the instrument that I love the most, it’s such a huge honor for me,” Scott said.
But while Scott’s rhythm was right, his timing couldn’t be worse. After starting his new position at the beginning of the pandemic, he saw his students dwindle from 20 to only four by fall 2021.
“I had a speaker with back tracks and that’s what we did, because we didn’t have enough people for a band and we did that for a whole year,” Scott said.
The Steel Drum Band’s Comeback
By September 2022, 11 students registered for the course. It was time to get to work.
There were only a handful of students who never played before, but the rest of the group had years of experience with steel drums. By November, the band played at the Indian Shores Sunday Market.
The market gig was their first time performing together in front of an audience. After two years, this was also the first performance for Scott in his new instructor position.
“That’s been a huge goal of mine – to not only take over the class, but to go out and play in the community,” Scott told The Gabber Newspaper. “And that’s what I want to do: I want this to be a community band.”
Scott hopes to have more of a community presence in the band’s future. The 2022-23 school year allowed them to play at multiple markets, churches, and other events.
“I want to help with fundraisers and other community things,” Scott said. “If Gulfport does something or wants music, I would love to do that.”
Scott said his students learned about 10 songs before the last class of the semester on March 29. They celebrated with pizza and playing songs, such as “Tequila” by The Champs.
You don’t have to be a registered SPC student to join. The course is part of the workforce education program for anyone looking to further their own personal growth. It costs $75 for 10 weeks.
Scott asks students to have basic music experience, like the ability to read music, prior to signing up.
For now, Scott is hopeful that his growing steel drum crew will become a local fixture: “I just want us to be that friendly neighborhood community band.”