School Desk

Steel drums resound at HM


On Feb. 12, the snow-covered grounds of Horace Mann School’s college-style campus were still and serene despite their proximity to bustling Broadway. 

But near the Cohen Dining Commons, sounds of Salsa, Afro-Blues and even Rihanna’s “We Found Love” broke the silence, emanating from the school’s cafeteria as students in the Horace Mann Steelbands performed at their “African Roots of Salsa and History of Steel Drums” concert. 

The event, hosted by Horace Mann’s Office of Diversity and Music Department, along with the Hispanic/Latino Family Network, brought the high school’s three steel bands together onstage with salsa expert José Obando and his musicians. Students and Steelband director Alan Bates, who began teaching steel drums at the school in 2009, got a chance to showcase his skills for his students in a performance with Mr. Obando’s band. 

“You don’t need a lot of experience to start playing but once you do, you gain this incredible talent,” said band member Adam Kesleff, a junior who has been a part of the band for two years. 

The school started the program eight years ago, for students who hoped to participate in the school musically but had little musical experience.

This year, the high school has three bands comprised of 40 Horace Mann students. The school offers introductory classes for middle school grades, but students in the high school band can choose Steelband as an elective. 

“That’s why they’re so into it,” said Mr. Bates, who has played steel drums for 25 years and is part of his own Caribbean music ensemble, Island Breeze, which performs at events and parties throughout the city. “They really want to play it and it makes it a lot of fun,” 

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