Josanne Francis, a University of Southern Mississippi music major from Trinidad and Tobago, has been named the new director of the Hattiesburg Community Steel Band, as well as the newly formed Junior Steel Band.
Since its inception 10 years ago by Dr. John Wooton, director of percussion studies at Southern Miss, the Hattiesburg Community Band continues to bring awareness of the steel pan to the community by getting local people involved in playing the instrument.
The Hattiesburg Community Steel Band performs at restaurants, parties, schools and concerts in the area. The Junior Steel Band will be the opening act at concerts for the Southern Miss Steel Pan Orchestra, among others.
“Josanne, with her youthful enthusiasm, is excellent when it comes to working with children and adults, not to mention, she is from the land of the steel pan and brings a wealth of knowledge to the groups,” said Wooton, who currently teaches Francis.
The steel drum, also known as the steel pan, is a musical instrument that finds its origins in Trinidad and Tobago. Steel pans are made from 55-gallon oil drums and are the only chromatic acoustic instruments invented in the 20th Century.
Francis plays a wide range of instruments from orchestral snare drum, marimba, bells, cymbals and timpani, as well as instruments of Brazilian origin.
“When I play the steel pan, I feel as though I have entered a new place in a new world. A world where there is no worry or pain,” said Francis. Her ultimate goal is to attain a doctorate in music and percussion studies then establish a school for the arts in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Hattiesburg Community Steel Band will meet Monday nights from 5-6 p.m. The group is open to anyone 18 years of age or older. The Junior Steel Band meeting time will be decided at registration. The group is open to anyone between 8 and 17 years of age.
“There is no need to feel intimidated at all, just come ready to have fun, learn, jam and meet some really neat people,” said Francis.
Registration for the Hattiesburg Community Steel Band and Junior Steel Band will take place on Saturday, July 24 at 1 p.m. at the Mannoni Performing Arts Center on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg Campus.
Both groups are open to the public and no prior experience is required. Costs range from $20-$25 per month.