CHS Steel is celebrating 31 years of existence!
Celebrating its 31st anniversary, CHS Steel, the Catonsville High School Steel Band directed by Jim Wharton and Andrew Hamilton, was founded in 1991 and for seven years was the only school steel drum program in the state of Maryland. Starting as a four-piece ensemble, the band has grown to its present size of 21 musicians.
Formed as a means for students to study and perform music from a culture other than their own, the band shares the music of Trinidad and Tobago with audiences throughout the Maryland region. Over 20 performances are presented annually in settings as diverse as school assemblies, jazz festivals, university conferences, state and national conventions of music educators, community festivals, church and synagogue social events and services, and the back of a flat-bed truck in the local Catonsville Fourth of July Parade. The band has appeared on the Baltimore County Education Channel, WJZ-TV, WMAR-TV, and WBAL-Radio. The band has been featured in articles in the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, and Newsday from Port of Spain, Trinidad.
At CHS Steel’s annual “Guest Artist Concert,” the band performs with a virtuoso performer and arranger from the pan world. In 2019, the band performed with Duvone Stewart, the Trinidadian arranger who won the 2019 Panorama “Triple Crown!” Other guest artists have included: the internationally known jazz composer and pan master, Andy Narell, Trinidadian steel pan composer and arranger, Ray Holman, and the late Trinidadian steel pan recording artist and arranger, Ken "Professor" Philmore. The band has produced compact disk recordings of the concerts held at CHS with these and other famed artist/composers of the pan world.
Each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, the band performs along with brass players from the Baltimore Symphony, National Symphony, and area military bands at the annual Holiday Brass concert. In early January, the band accompanies Cantor Thom King and the choir of Beth El Synagogue for their annual Island Shabbat.
Most students in the band are also members of the school chorus, orchestra, guitar, or band program and represent all grade levels in the school. Two-hour rehearsals are held after school three days every week. Each year, auditions are held for the few open positions in the band. None of the students in the band have had prior experience playing steel drums.
The repertoire of the band covers many different styles, from classical to jazz and rock. Emphasis is placed on learning to play calypso and soca, the most popular styles of music heard in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.