A locally produced documentary, “Wings of a Dove”, will be premiering at Garrett 8 Cinemas on September 14, 2018, at 9:30 AM. The documentary dives into a special project at Crellin Elementary School where the students, teaching staff, and volunteers joined together to build their own set of steel drums to expand the music program. Under the guidance of Kevin Martin, the school breaks new ground by building the instruments, learning to play them, and maintaining them using specialized tuning equipment.
Crellin Elementary School teaching principal, Dana McCauley, and music teacher, Heather Roth, developed an earlier working relationship with Martin. In January 2018, an artist-in-residence program had Martin teaching students how to play the steel drums, thanks to funding from The Garrett County Arts Council, The Garrett County Board of Education, and Samantha Funding the Arts, in addition to assistance from various individuals and organizations.
Martin recently located his factory, Rockcreek Steel Drums, to Ocean City, Maryland, where he makes the instruments as part of his teaching and musical performing career. He is one of roughly 100 steel drum makers worldwide, so bringing this specialized art form to Crellin was both unique and inspiring, according to McCauley.
“We clicked right away,” said McCauley. “He understood the way we teach at Crellin, and he quickly became part of our teaching family.”
Roth could not agree more. “I was so impressed with how Kevin patiently worked with each and every student when they were learning to play the steel drums.” Roth had already launched Rhythm & Rubbish with the Crellin students who use simple percussion instruments made from trashcans, road signs, and anything that will make a percussive noise. “I was thrilled to know that Kevin was coming back to help us build our own steel drums so we can expand our current music program for the kids.”
Throughout the week, Martin led workshops in building the instruments from industrial metal barrels that were generously donated to the school. What he referred to as “The Crellin Steel Drum Factory”, Martin helped students, teachers, and volunteers set up stations to hammer down barrels, cut out stands, shape the notes, and tune each drum so they would be concert-ready in a very short time. All the while, Martin also led classes instructing students and teachers to perform several songs for a Friday concert.
“I was amazed with how organized and methodical Kevin’s process was,” said Roth. “He had the steps figured out and timed perfectly to get everything accomplished in such a short period of time.” The schedule was ambitious to build 15 steel drums in just five days. Martin brought his own set of steel drums on which students could practice and rehearse while their own set was being manufactured.
McCauley expressed gratitude for all the volunteers and donations that made the week possible. Samantha Funding the Arts, Railey Mountain Lake Vacations, Mettiki Coal Corporation, and several individuals all donated their time, money, and talent to see the program through to the end. “Volunteerism is a hallmark at Crellin,” she said. “Without our parent and community support, none of the ambitious things we do would be possible.”
Documenting the program was not part of McCauley’s original plan. However, last fall, Mark Stutzman, President of Engage Mountain Maryland, contacted her about shooting a short video to enlighten people about the school’s unique agricultural program. He wanted it to be part of the “Raised on Rural” video series on the nonprofit’s YouTube channel. “I heard what they were doing and found it intriguing,” said Stutzman.
At the time the two first made contact, the growing season was ending and video opportunities were fading. McCauley said she would contact Stutzman if something popped up on their schedule that would be of special interest. The steel drum workshop filled the bill and gave new purpose to the original video concept.
"When I got to the school and began the initial interviews, I realized this story was much bigger than my usual ten to fifteen-minute short stories,” explained Stutzman. “Each day something new was unfolding so I just kept coming back to record the process.”
In total, Stutzman said he had roughly four hours of video to sort through. “At that point, I realized I had enough content to tell a much bigger story.”
The final edits resulted in a 90-minute feature-length raw documentary that follows the process of building the steel drums as well as what happens at Crellin Elementary School on a daily basis. “After seeing the film,” says McCauley, “I realized it was about so much more than building drums. It’s about supporting each other, community, philosophies about teaching, and a passion for learning.”
The morning show time at Garrett 8 Cinemas will allow all 134 Crellin students to attend the premiere as a field trip outing. “We want to invite everyone to attend, but especially educators and those interested in arts education,” said Roth. “Music is a special way of connecting with students. There’s a lot we learned in that one short week, and I'm anxious for others to gain a glimpse of our project through viewing this wonderful film."
Superintendent Barbara Baker stated, “I am always proud of the many fine things that are happening in our schools. This project is indeed unique and special and I encourage everyone to join the students and teachers of Crellin Elementary at the premier on September 14.”
Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Donations will be accepted at the door with all proceeds going to Crellin Elementary School and Engage Mountain Maryland.
A trailer of the film is available online at https://youtu.be/fbHcN-GP5Uk
and by visiting EngageMMD.org/wings
, along with information for groups or organizations interested in hosting their own screening.