Steel drum band develops reputation for quality
Church Rock Academy steel drum band develops reputation for quality
By Candace Begody
Special to the Times
CHURCH ROCK, N.M., Dec. 20, 2007
Most of the 14 students in the Church Rock Academy steel drum band had
never even picked up an instrument, let alone played one.
But that all changed when former college music instructor Randy Markham
formed the band in late September. Now, after four to six hours a week
practicing in the classroom, they are playing well beyond their age level,
said Markham, the band director.
"They are already professionals," he said. "They continue to amaze me with
how they work and how fast they learn."
In a classroom concert Dec. 13, which preceded Monday's performance at
Church Rock Academy's 2007 winter Christmas concert, the band performed a
tune called "The Calypso."
The 9- to 11-year-olds pounded away on African Djembe drums that were half
as tall as they were, their faces intent on the music.
Despite its name, the steel drum band ranges far beyond the melodic
instruments first developed by African slaves on the Caribbean islands of
Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the course of the concert, the sounds of Native American flutes filled
the air, plus a touch of conga and bongo drums from Cuba, and percussion
accessories such as the guiro, a rattle-like instrument from the Antilles.
The school's music room is packed with over 40 instruments including double
second pans and bass pans, which are made of 55-gallon drums and tuned with
a lower pitch, and African talking drums.
"Not a lot of people take elementary kids serious so this is really good
for them," said Juakeene Martinez, 19, who plays drums and has been working
with the young musicians since the band formed.
But playing music has other benefits, he noted.
"They learn math, too," Martinez said. "They are learning to play in unison
and they're working toward a common goal."
Fourth-grader Andrea Begay, 10, said she's "happy on stage" and feels like
she can play anything. Her parents feel happy about her involvement in the
band too, she said.
Begay learned "The Calypso" in three days, as did most of the other band
Fifth-grader Nygel James, 11, never before had the chance to learn a
musical instrument and "it's been good to play the instruments." He loves
to play the flute.
Irwin King III, 10, says it's fun playing music and he takes his drums home
to practice, though he's still a bit shy about performing in front of a
Emerald Suver, 12, said playing in the band is "pretty cool" and she's
grown to love the Djembe drums.
Despite its short lifespan, the Church Rock steel drum band has come far
enough to get invitations for special occasions, such as the Nov. 28 Inter
Tribal Justice Conference, where it performed in honor of former Assistant
Attorney General Regina B. Schofield of the U.S. Office of Justice
The band has since received invitations to play around the state and in
For information and bookings: call Randy Markham at 505-409-5236 or e-mail