Since 1993, scores of District of Columbia youth have participated in the East of the River Police Boys and Girls Steel Band, a program that enhances their lives, builds self-confidence and resiliency as it fosters an appreciation for the arts. The steel band program works with youth, ages 9 to 18 years, living east of DC's Anacostia River. In addition to training in steel pan music, the program offers tutoring, mentoring, life skills training, and exposes young people to education and cultural activities. The band has recorded two albums, "Rising" in 1999 and "Pan in DC" in 2009.
The students learn steel pan music, an acoustic musical instrument invented in Trinidad during the 20th century. The Steelband has benefited from the musical tutelage of the renowned Roger Greenidge, a Trinidadian composer and arranger. The strength of the musical training is evident in the prestigious performance afforded the band. The band has had countless performances in the Washington Metropolitan Area, among its premiere events were the opening ceremonies for the 1996 Olympic Soccer Games held in Washington, the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, Wolf Trap Park for the Performing Arts, Children's International Arts Festival, Stone Soul Picnic and the BBQ Battle. The Steelband has been honored with a First Place Mayor's Arts Award for Emerging Artist; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities' Certificate of Excellence; and second place at the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night.
The Steelband program is also an international ambassador for American goodwill and Washington's talent. The Steelband has traveled to Trinidad and Tobago numbers times and they have hosted their Caribbean counterparts as well through the U.S. Trinidad and Tobabgo International Youth Cultural Exchange Program. The band has performed in front of audiences in venues along the East Coast, in Canada, and at the Gullah Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina for more than two decades. The Steelband's travels have exposed students to different cultures and provided unique educational experiences.
While musical education is the soul of the Steelband program, the students are also exposed to other initiatives that enhance their maturation. Life Skills training explores substance abuse prevention, anger and anxiety management, self-esteem and self improvement. The culture-specific curriculum, SETCLAE, has also been incorporated into the program. Band members participate in an intergenerational mentoring program that facilitates interaction between young people and elders in the community. Program evaluation and participant outcomes are measured using standardized instruments.
The Steelband heralds a cadre of alumni, 95% of its participants completed high school and more than 80% continuing their education at college. Several of its earliest students are now engaged in post-graduate work, including pursuit of the Doctorate in Music.
The East of the River Boys & Girls Steelband is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.