From the moment that members of Meade High School’s Steel Drum Band stepped onstage to perform with renowned percussionist Victor Provost, the music that followed was a jam session.
On Friday night, Provost — whom The New York Times called “a serious improviser” — and the band performed a two-hour concert of pop and Caribbean music in the school auditorium.
Provost, a native of St. Johns in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is known for combining the rhythms of the steel pan with jazz. He has performed with jazz artists Wynton Marsalis and Hugh Masekela.
“I hope that they are inspired, not just musically but as students as well,” said Provost, an adjunct professor of music at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Alexander Scott, chair of Meade High’s music department and director of the Steel Drum Band, said he invited Provost to perform with the students and conduct a series of music clinics so they could experience practicing with a professional musician.
“Victor is also an accomplished composer and teacher, so I knew that he would be a great choice for a musical guest,” Scott said.
Officials from the Anne Arundel County Public Schools and a state delegate attended the concert as well.
The concert opened with a prelude of Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.”
The band and Provost then went headlong into a jam session of Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” and “Let’s Groove Tonight” sung by Earth, Wind & Fire.
It was during “Let’s Groove Tonight” that Provost performed the first of three solos. Seniors Zachary Sotelo and Johanna McGuire also performed solos during the song.
Sotelo, 17, performed on the double second drum and Johanna, 17, played the lead pan.
“I was really excited and nervous,” Zachary said during the 15-minute intermission. “It was awesome.”
Johanna later performed a saxophone solo with Provost on the pan.
“Hearing the cheers and applause from the audience was great,” she said.
Provost and the band also performed two of his own compositions, “Samba Ouro Verde” and “Cocolobo.”
Sotelo performed “Fantasy Variations” as a soloist.
The concert included performances by the Meade Steel Community Band, which Scott formed earlier in the year for music enthusiasts in the Fort Meade area. The band includes several of Scott’s former students and his wife, Mary.
The community band performed “Black Orfeus” and “Vibes.”
Brice Sanborn, 18, the Steel Drum Band’s electric bass guitarist, later performed a solo with Provost during “Mariella’s Dance.”
“I loved it,” Sanborn said. “I was really excited to do a full concert. It was amazing.”
A highlight of the evening was when Provost performed an improvisational solo. Provost asked Sotelo to play three random notes from a pan before band members left the stage.
Provost then improvised on the pan.
“It was fantastic,” said Shawn Noratel, a resident of Millersville who attended the concert with his wife, Jessica.
Noratel said he was impressed by Provost’s talent and the infusion of Caribbean culture in his performance.
“It think it’s important that the students are exposed to different cultures and work with artists,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience for them.”
The concert ended with “The Hammer,” a full jam session with all the musicians of the evening.
Teacher To Student
“They did an excellent job,” said Robb Wilmot, incoming vice president of the Meade High Instrumental Music Association, the high school’s music booster association. “They played beautifully and they had a lot of fun.
“This kind of exposure also helps students do better in the classroom.”
The association is a nonprofit organization that supports the high school’s music programs. It provided the funds to hire Provost as a special guest for the concert.
An added bonus for the evening was a catered Caribbean dinner with Provost an hour before the concert. Twenty-seven people purchased $25 tickets for the dinner and a lecture by Provost about his life and musical influences. He also gave a brief steel pan performance.
Earlier in the week, Provost led three music clinics with members of the Steel Drum Band after school. Provost worked with the students on how to perform his compositions and how to improvise solos.
Scott said Provost was “extremely patient and knowledgeable about his craft.”
“I hope that the students were able to appreciate the high level of musicianship and craftsmanship that Victor displayed at the concert,” Scott said. “Bringing in a professional at his level … is a unique and impressionable experience that I hope they will benefit from as they continue to be music appreciators and music consumers.”
Seventeen-year-old Cabaret Goings, a Steel Drum Band member who plays the cello steel pan, said Provost made a big impression on her.
“He taught me,” she said, “to keep pushing and to always try my best — keep the music going and keep counting your notes.”