Local students win gold in steel-drum competition
Members of the Southern Delaware School of the Arts “Steel, The Show” steel-drum band, in a performance with sister band Plenty Problems, won a gold medal at the Panorama Caribbean Music Festival in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 9. The only band from Delaware participating, Plenty Problems competed against bands from Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut, Michigan and North Carolina.
The SDSA band has been performing for about five years, and the second-place win was especially important for many of the now high-schoolers who perform with Plenty Problems, as they have been playing steel drums since the program’s inception at SDSA.
Zack Fabryka, a sophomore at Indian River High School and Aaron Pepe, a freshman there, both said the win was something they had been looking forward to for a while.
“It’s something we have been craving for five years,” said Fabryka.
Steel, The Show is made up of students at Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA) in Selbyville – mostly sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Plenty Problems is an extension of the band for students who have gone on to high school but still have an interest in performing in the band. In fact, the group’s oldest member – the son of SDSA social studies teacher and steel-drum band organizer John Syphard – is in his first year of college.
Plenty Problems runs as a business – a licensed private band that recruits Steel, The Show members based on certain criteria – and it gives the older kids a chance to teach the younger ones all they learned while playing for the school and beyond.
For the festival, the musicians competed as Plenty Problems, in the high-school band category, with 13 middle-school members and six high-school members. They placed second in their category of high-school bands and fourth overall, and came home with a gold medal.
“The band that beat us went on to win the whole thing,” noted John Syphard.
Plenty Problems stays busy with gigs year-round. They will be playing on the Bethany Beach bandstand on June 19 and will start playing at Sea Colony’s bonfires on the beach on June 18. They also participate in the Bear Trap 4th of July Parade and have several weddings coming up. Just recently, they played for the Lions Club at the Dover Downs.
Both bands are all-acoustic and learn most of their songs by memory. They have received a Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation grant for their arranger, who is basically like the conductor of the band, according to Syphard.
Members of the bands have been to Trinidad four times. Although they have never competed there, they have played in parades and venues during their visits. But since they weren’t going to Trinidad this year, Syphard said he wanted them to go to Virginia Beach, so they could be a part of a competition.
“And I’m glad we did,” he said. “We finally found out that we are pretty good.”