Campus and Community

Building on Traditions

West Virginia University

WVU and the Modern Steel Drum

West Virginia University is dedicated to providing access to higher education, promoting research and creating cultural opportunities for citizens of the global community. In 1992, WVU founded its World Music Center to explore and share multicultural understanding.

That same year, Ellie Mannette, “father of the modern steel drum,” came to WVU’s College of Creative Arts as artist-in-residence and director of the University Tuning Project, created to elevate the humble steel drum from something heard only on Caribbean vacations to a modern instrument equally familiar among musicians from the classroom to symphony halls.

The University Tuning Project brought together some the world’s finest steel drum craftspeople, tuners, and performers to work with Mannette on WVU’s Morgantown campus. There he invented new types of steel drums, developed many of the instrument’s innovations, and revolutionized the tuning process. His contributions have been integral to the development of steel drum programs nationwide in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as in community centers and universities. For his lifetime achievements, Mannette received the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the country’s most prestigious honor in folk and traditional arts.

At the Festival, visitors heard exciting steel drum presentations, and learned about Ellie Mannette and the history and manufacture of the drums. Visitors participated in the joy that comes from playing a steel drum!

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