Playing back up for the signature funk sound of Ouiwey Collins –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
The students in West Union High School music director Carl Schneider’s steel drum band have not only mastered their instruments – they have developed a remarkable affinity for the happy, light-hearted percussive sound first developed in the islands of the Caribbean.
Their success with the joyously chiming instruments has won them an invitation to play backup for Ouiwey Collins at Bogart’s in greater Cincinnati.
Collins is the son of Cincinnati’s own Bootsy Collins who was a major influence in the development of the 1970’s funk sound.
The band, which combines theatrics and costuming with the unique island sound, came to the attention of the Cincinnati-based Bootsy Collins Foundation last year.
“These kids are very talented,” Collins said. “I think they came here with us from Funktropolis.”
The steel band played backup for Collins and performed for patrons last Thursday evening at Moyer’s Winery and Restaurant in Manchester.
Performing “Puppy Love”, a song written by Collins, with a steel drum musical arrangement by Schneider, the band proved they could not only adapt to the funk genre, they could make it sparkle.
“Carl did a wonderful job with the song,” Collins said. “His arrangement just brought it to life.”
DJ Michael Swift, who traveled to Adams County with Collins heaped praise on the band of students.
“For me, it was amazing experience to come to a school that feeds so much into music,” he said, laughing. “Where was this when I was growing up?”
Following their performance, Collins extended his Bogart’s invitation by offering the group the opportunity to perform four solo tunes during their June 17 show, one that coincides with the release of Collins’ new CD, which will feature the WUHS Steel Band on the song “Puppy Love.”
The advent of WUHS’s steel band came on the heels of a visit from the University of Cincinnati’s Steel Percussion Band in 1996.
“Dale Grooms, our principal at the time, called me and asked what I needed, and I said a french horn would be nice,” Schnider recalled. “The next day he handed me $10,000 and said ‘I’m not telling you how to spend the money, but I really like those steel drums'”.
Schneider says he took the hint and the rest is Adams County music history.
Tim Colby, the percussionist for Collins’ band, and a former resident of Adams County, said, “These kids have transformed the steel drum sound into an art form, it’s extraordinary, especially from a small school in a small farming community like this.”