A new documentary by Mark Stutzman, WINGS OF A DOVE premiered at Garrett 8 Cinemas on September 14, 2018. 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 their 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.
Documenting the program was not part of Principal, Dana McCauley’s original plan, however, last Fall, Stutzman, 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, Engage Mountain Maryland’s YouTube channel.
“I heard about their agricultural program and found it intriguing,” said Stutzman. “Experiential learning is something that can be difficult to work into mandated school rigors so I wanted to see how Dana was doing it, and with such success.”
At the time the two first made contact, the growing season was coming to a close and video opportunities were fading. McCauley said she would contact Stutzman if something popped up 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.”
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.”
Crellin Elementary School teaching principal, McCauley and music teacher, Heather Roth developed an earlier working relationship with Martin. An artist-in-residence program in January of 2018 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 relocated 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 couldn’t 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 trash cans, road signs, and anything that will make a percussive sound. “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 drums 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 barrels, cut out stands, shape the notes, and tune each drum so they would be concert-ready by weeks-end. All the while, Martin 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 completely figured out and timed 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.
This was a fantastic experience for all of us at Crellin,” said McCauley. “Everyone really stepped up to make it happen.”
McCauley expressed gratitude for all the volunteers and donations that made the week possible. Samantha Funding the Arts, Railey Mountain Vacations, Metikki 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 continues. “Without our parent and community support, none of the ambitious things we do would be possible.”
The morning showtime at Garrett 8 Cinemas allowed all the Crellin students to attend the premiere as a field trip outing. “We wanted 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."
A fundraiser download is available by visiting EngageMMD.org/wings along with information for groups or organizations interested in hosting their own screening.