Wasco High Steel Drum Band continues to drum on

Wasco High Steel Drums
Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 20, 2024

WASCO, Calif. (KERO) — Since 2012, Wasco High School music teacher Greg 'Sparky' Sparks has led a steel drum orchestra at the school. On Wednesday night, the Orchestra will play various genres using the instrument under the guide of Sparks and guest artist, Tracy Thornton.

  • Sparks said the reason Wasco has such a unique program is an effort to give students an affordable option to express themselves.
  • 23ABC spoke with members of the program who all said they were originally drawn to the instruments by the sound they made.
  • According to a historical account of the instruments by BBC News, the instruments originated in the 1930s in Trinidad and Tobago and were originally crafted from used industrial materials.


I’m Sam Hoyle, your Wasco neighborhood reporter, when you think of a musical instrument, or just music in general, something that sounds like this, probably doesn’t come to mind.

According to a BBC News Historical Account, the instruments date back to the 1930’s originating in Trinidad and Tobago, and is thought to be the only instrument created from industrial waste.

The program’s director says the history behind the instruments is just as important as the music.

“The history is about enslaved people who were denied their music, however, they use the raw materials of the area where they were at to create a new kind of music,” said Greg Sparks, Wasco High School's Music Teacher

For the last 12 years, that music has permeated the school and in talking with students during the program's final rehearsals ahead of their concert… all noted they were drawn to the opportunity after being introduced to the sound.

“The music that they played, the way that they could change the song's feel to it,” said Samuel Ruiz.

“Honestly, just like the sound of it like multiple things coming together,” said Illiana Molina.

“I just love the way that it sounded And so that's when I was just like, I want to do it,” said Mahalia Bradshaw.

In schools across the country, bands featuring traditional instruments like saxophones, trumpets, and drums can be found, but for some of these students the steel drum program in Wasco is important because: it’s unique.

"Most people don't really know what this is, they've never heard it play, and when people come out and watch this it's amazing seeing like — their eyes open, like 'cool'," said Eduardo Jimenez-Corona

“You have clarinets, trumpets, trombones, like all the basic stuff you see. And then all of a sudden you have like a metal barrel that makes noise and it's like, I want to — I want to figure out how that works and play it,” said Gabriel Gonzalez.

In talking to the high school’s music instructor Greg Sparks, affectionately known as Sparky around these parts, one of the reasons they brought this program to Wasco was to give kids an opportunity to express themselves musically and I think it's safe to say they've done that.

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