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I Am...Playing Steel Drums

"I Am ..." appears every other Monday and explores the life experiences of teenagers and young adults in their own words.


December 31, 2007

Kalea Griffith, 23, of Hartford, is no stranger to the sound of steel drums. Her father, Kelvin Griffith, has made all the instruments for the Hartford Steel Symphony, an orchestra made up entirely of steel drums. He also arranges all of the group's music. Each drum "pan" in steel-drum vernacular has a name such as "tenor," "bass," "guitar" or "cello." Kalea plays pan and also is a member of the National Guard. We caught up with the Griffiths during a recent rehearsal at the Trinidad and Tobago American Society of Hartford Inc.

My name is Kalea Griffith. I am 23 years old, and I have been playing pan with the Hartford Steel Symphony since I was 9 years old. I played cello, the tenor, the guitar and the bass. But bass is my instrument. I've been playing it for 10 years now. Playing bass, we keep the beat. We keep the tempo for the rest of the instruments.

I can't tell you the first time I played pan, but I remember the first time I played the bass. It was very hard. It took me a while to catch up.

I have traveled with the band all over the nation, most frequently to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston, and around the state of Connecticut. We performed in parades. We played in private parties, weddings, whoever wants to hire us. I have taught bass at Bloomfield High School, Central Connecticut State University and other venues with my father. My dad made the instruments, and arranges the songs. My dad, Kelvin Griffith, is very well known in Trinidad for playing pan.

I have been playing pan since I was little. It's my life. I would love to play in Trinidad, which I would like to do in the next two to three years. In Trinidad, the music is different, and they take the music more seriously. Playing pan in Trinidad is just like a job because the players travel around the world. It will be a step up for me.

I love bass. It gives me enjoyment and it keeps us out of trouble.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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