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Band students study with steel drum professionals


Shelly Irvine, center left, and Tracy Thornton, center right, pose for a picture with the Petoskey High School Steel Drum Band.

PETOSKEY— The Petoskey Middle School auditorium was filled with the sound of jazz and steel drums Monday morning as the Petoskey High School bands rehearsed for the Band Aid concert coming up on Friday, May 18.

This year, the band program has brought in Shelly Irvine and Tracy Thornton, two professional steel drum players and arrangers, to work with the students every day leading up to the concert. Irvine is spending most of his time tuning the steel drums while Thornton is helping prepare and rehearse music with the students.

“I have been coming to Petoskey for over 20 years,” Irvine said. “I typically learn a few songs to play with the group but this week I’ll mostly be tuning the drums.”

Irvine comes from an extensive steel drum background having studied, played and arranged music for the instrument and large ensembles through the 1980s and ‘90s. With a college friend of his he also created a steel drum company called Panyard and has since been traveling around the country tuning steel drums, but says Petoskey is one of his favorite stops to tune and work with the band.

“I love coming to Petoskey and tuning and working with the band teachers and students too. They are some of the hardest working band directors I know.”

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