Epic Steel Orchestra (Epic Steel) is an unfolding story of the power of vision and the pursuit of purpose. What began as an idea in the heart of Mr. Julian Champion to positively affect the lives of inner-city youth in a tough Chicago neighborhood, has become a musical sensation garnering the attention of audiences throughout the Midwest.
Epic Steel began in 2010 playing the indigenous steel drums of Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies. This energetic group is committed to performing calypso, the genre of music that gave birth to the steel drums in its native Trinidad. The Epic Steel performers bring pleasantry and accessibility to this complex musical style and they demonstrate great flexibility and musical chops as they engage Latin, jazz, marches, classical, and contemporary music.
The group has been described as "every bit the match in stage presence and technique" as that of well-known performing concert bands. They demonstrate the infectious and intricate beats of Calypso and the subtlety that is possible in performing Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee".
Location: Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts Date: February 7, 2023
Director: Julian J. Champion
: Out and Bad Composer: Voice
Arranger: Courtney Chambers Ah Feeling To Party Composer: Leroy "Black Stalin" Castille Arranger: Kareem Brown
Epic Steel shows the skill, innovation and creativity of this musical form. The samples show the range of venues and works
Epic Steel members teach beginning and intermediate students how to play the steel pan! All students engaged in Celebration on Steel also learn music notation and theory, but even students who can't read music can learn the basis of steel pan.
West Point School of Music (WPSOM) is an African American-led and serving organization whose mission is to engage low-income, urban youth through music instruction and performance; cultivating artistically connected, socially conscious, and productive adults. West Point's professional performance ensemble, Epic Steel Orchestra, uses the steel drum to promote African American musical and cultural heritage to broad audiences.
Epic Steel is the professional steel pan orchestra affiliated with West Point School of Music. As the only steel drum program in the City of Chicago, Epic Steel plays an important role, both upholding and amplifying a complex and important part of world musical heritage, and offering a professional career path for aspiring young African American musicians. Epic Steel members also serve as teaching artists for steel drum students in West Point's education programs. In doing so, they teach the heritage and history of African American and African Caribbean music in a way that is culturally relevant and meaningful to the majority Black youth in WPSoM's programs.
The steel drum is central to WPSoM's mission to ensure that music education speaks to the population it serves. While WPSoM's two education programs, Urban Music Makers and Celebration on Steel, bring this rich cultural legacy to students, Epic Steel uses the steel drum to amplify this cultural heritage beyond West Point's core communities. Programming is relevant and reflective of the community as the only steel drum program in the city centering African-Caribbean heritage and placing the instrument in a world-instrument context.
Programs for Specific Audience(s) Expertise
Epic Steel is great for everyone: 1. students from grade school through university, including as concert audiences, for master classes and for demonstrations
2. general concert audiences
3. professional musicians especially those with roots or interest in heritage music traditions, in particular musicians of color. While our programs aim to support Black youth, musicians, and audiences in particular, all audiences can benefit from learning about this rich cultural heritage. Our desire is to both enhance arts opportunities in Illinois and to bring culturally diverse programming across the State.
Traditional Folk/Ethnic Artform Statement
Epic Steel Orchestra centers the musical heritage of the African diaspora, which has been a key narrative of resistance and resilience for Black communities since the start of the slave trade in the 1700s when enslaved Africans brought their musical culture with them. These musical traditions evolved into the musical cultures of Black communities today, informing the development of negro spirituals, jazz, blues, soca, and calypso. The steel drum is part of this cultural heritage. Many know the captivating sounds of the steel drum, but the history of this instrument is lesser known. Developed by descendants of former slaves in Trinidad who had to make due with discarded materials, the steel drum carried forward African drumming traditions and expanded the musical complexity of these rhythmic traditions by adding pitch and melody. Steel drums became a symbol of African diaspora resistance and resilience as part of Afro-caribbean Canboulay festivals, which commemorate the emancipation of slaves in Trinidad through vibrant dance and music.
Epic Steel Orchestra at West Point School of Music
1933 West 109th Place
Chicago IL 60643
$2,500 to $10,000