During this year’s spring break, 24 members of Delaware Steel, the University of Delaware Department of Music’s
elite steel pan band, traveled to Vienna, Austria, where they presented
workshops and concerts to audiences that often had never before heard a
live steel drum performance.
The trip was made at the invitation of the Johann Sebastian Bach
Musikschule (Bach Music School), whose director, Hanns Stekel, heard the
UD ensemble two years ago at the 2012 International Society for Music
Education World Conference in Greece.
Steel pan is — almost literally — unheard in Vienna, and there are no
steel drum bands in the country. Stekel wanted to create the
opportunity to expose his school’s more than 2,000 classical music
students to the instrument.
Traveling with a steel band means completely rethinking the idea of
luggage restrictions. Delaware Steel, which is led by Harvey Price,
associate professor of music, traveled to Vienna with 56 instrument
cases, the largest of which were the bass drums made from steel oil
Trip planning required contacting airlines in advance, confirming
appropriate ground transportation and securing safe storage at the
destination. The group could take only direct flights, as there was no
reliable way to transfer the instruments from one plane to another.
In addition, Price always travels with extra drums that can be left
behind, building the instrument’s reputation and accessibility every
time he visits a new country.
For five days, the members of Delaware Steel presented four workshops
and at least two concerts a day in schools and community centers
throughout Vienna. For UD students, it was the chance to live as
full-time musicians for a week, a dream come true for some of them.
They couldn’t have asked for better or more appreciative audiences,
Price said, noting, “Vienna is a very open city musically; they accept
For the students, the trip was also the chance to see how people
relate to music in a different part of the world. Graduate music
education student Jessica Eastridge said she was impressed that even
young schoolchildren were quiet during the performance, and that they
all recognized the Mozart piece the band played.
Undergraduate music major Julie Falango described creating “Carnival
in Austria,” when the band took advantage of good weather to play an
impromptu outdoor concert that attracted a huge crowd eager to see what
was making this new sound.
Plans are in the works to bring Stekel and some of his students to UD
this fall to continue the relationship between the two schools and
share more musical exchanges.
Intercultural class visits Sweden
Also during spring break, a group of music education students visited
Örebro, Sweden, as part of the yearlong “Intercultural Course on Music,
Art, Education and Culture.”
Music education faculty members at UD and Örebro Universitet designed
the class with a primary goal of enabling students to learn about and
better understand the music, art, education and culture of their
international counterparts, as well as that of their own country.
During the school year, six students from Delaware and four from
Sweden used videoconferencing to bridge the distance between the two
countries and participated in two 10-day cultural immersion experiences.
The first experience occurred when the Swedish students and faculty
members visited Delaware, and the second came during UD’s spring break
when students from Newark traveled to Sweden with music Profs. Suzanne
Burton and Russell Murray, chair of the department.
Students lived with one another in their flats or dorm rooms.
Together, they observed and participated in a wide range of music
classes in public and private schools and community settings, in both
countries. They attended classes specifically related to each country
and took part in cultural excursions such as guided historical tours and
visits to museums, concerts and musicals.
Being immersed in a number of unfamiliar cultural and music education
practices, then returning home to the status quo created conditions for
participants to examine their beliefs about music education and
educational systems in general, Burton said, and to begin to think
differently about music education and their futures as school music