‘Festival of Steel’ To Rock John Marshall High School Auditorium March 19 | News, Sports, Jobs
picture by: Photo by Alan Olson
GLEN DALE — Artists from across the region will come together to perform at the Festival of Steel next weekend, raising money for the Robert James “Jim” Gracey Memorial Scholarship.
The Festival of Steel will feature the Steel Cassa, a local steel band, as well as steel bands from Bridge Street Middle School, Sherrard Middle School, Weir High School, Wheeling Park High School, West Liberty University and John Marshall Highschool. The event will feature arranger, composer and performer Josh Garrett as a guest artist. The festival will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. at the JMHS Auditorium. Tickets are $5.
John Marshall High School band manager Tracy Filben said the festival was the brainchild of her daughter Kailey, a 2019 JMHS graduate, who is currently pursuing a degree in music education and percussion performance at the University of North Texas. Since its inaugural event in 2018, and with a two-year hiatus due to COVID, this year’s festival is an opportunity to allow artists to come together in ways they otherwise might not have achieved.
“When (Kailey) was in high school, we went to steel drum festivals and then people just didn’t have them,” Filben said. “She decided we should have one of our own, so we did, and we had invited our friends, their bands, and we had a great response. It was a great time and we decided to donate the proceeds to good causes at the time.
The inaugural event benefited the family of a Wheeling Park student whose mother was battling breast cancer. This year’s proceeds will go to the Robert James “Jim” Gracey Memorial Scholarship, established in honor of a JMHS student who was killed in a car accident during his freshman year. Gracey is reportedly set to graduate this year, and several JMHS Group functions have raised funds for the scholarship named after her.
“Jim was a member of the band, orchestra and company Monarch, and would be graduating this spring,” Filben said.
“I’m really proud to be in a band that is able to represent someone very dear to the band and to the strings,” added performer Olivia Miller. “The fact that we can give back through donations and our performances is a very good thing.”
Organizers of many steel bands in the area have ties to Filben and learned their instruments locally. Garrett, Filben’s nephew, taught in Marshall County and worked with JMHS percussion students, and is now band manager at Weir High.
“He formed what he calls a Caribbean jazz project at Weir High, a mix of brass and pans, just trying to expand the curriculum and get the kids involved in things they didn’t know existed,” said said Filben. “Wheeling Park has had a steel drum band since 1994, which my husband actually started at the time, and it was the first steel drum band in a public school in West Virginia. So, yes, we have fairly strong roots.