Steel Band 25th Anniversary Concert SRO

WIU Steel Band and alums in concert

Dr. Richard Cheadle and steel band alums rock the house.

What an incredible pleasure it was to be part of the audience at the Steel Band 25th Anniversary concert on Saturday, May 8.  The current steel band led by Richard Kurasz was joined by Richard Cheadle and alums from the past 25 years of steel bands.

Cheadle took a few minutes during the concert to tell about the beginnings of the steel band.  It was 1985 and he heard a steel band and wanted to bring the music opportunity to Western.    The first step was to find pans.  After some searching, he found a drum maker  in Minnesota and ordered the pans.  The next step was to get the pans to WIU.  This required a U Haul truck and a drive to Minnesota.  Once back on campus, he said they had to figure out how to build stands as, once again, there were no commercially made products.  With the best Yankee ingenuity, they built their own stands–from pipes and chains!  Mallets were fabricated from dowel rods and rubber balls.  It was truly the dark ages of steel bands in the midwest.

You’d have never known it from the sound of the band and the repertoire Saturday night.  Among the 11 compositions  played, 3  were composed by WIU alums: Matt Murphy, BA Music 1995, Las Vegas, NV; Scott Johnson, BA Music 1992, Mt. Prospect, IL; and Chris Patterson, BA Music 1995, Nashville, TN.

It was a terrific concert and the alumni turn-out was a testament to the importance of the band through its 25 year history.

Current and alumni Steel Band members.

Dr. WIU Steel Band. Richard Cheadle, founder, and Dr. Rick Kurasz, current director, center.

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