IRMO — Skillets, trash cans and empty vegetable containers are all it takes to make music at Harbison West Elementary School.
Using those nontraditional items as instruments was once a necessity but now is a popular choice for producing percussion at the school near Irmo.
“We didn’t have stuff to play, so I went looking for whatever could produce cool sounds,” said teacher Dawn Reitz, a trombonist who plays in community bands. “I love all things instrumental – chorus wasn’t my thing.”
Now the 3-year-old student Trash Can Band is in demand for school concerts.
Students like Tori May, 10, take part because it’s joyful noise. “It’s neat to hear things go together and make something pretty,” she said.
Parent Leslie Brewer says it’s beneficial academically for her two sons.
Being in the band makes them employ mathematics to develop beats and improves literacy as they read notes, she said.
“It’s learning through fun, seeing what works through music,” Brewer said.
Reitz agrees the class is much more than unconventional drumming, as band members work to turn self-expression into beautiful sounds.
“There’s so much they got out of this in life skills,” she said.
Those are lessons that Reitz, a teacher for six years, seeks to inspire through creative experimentation.
At a recent rehearsal, she stopped the 21-member band from drumming and led them through a series of vocal clicks to develop new sounds.
“We’ll play with that,” she told them after the exercise. “We’ll make it work.”
Members learn at an advanced level for youngsters. “It’s a notch up,” Reitz said.
The band now has real drums and other instruments to play, donated by the school PTO.
But members still jam on household items like plastic tubs as they test ways to make discordant sounds cohesive.
Interest in the band is high. More than 60 of 500 students at the school auditioned for it after classes began in August, willing to stay an hour after school once a week to participate.
“It’s taken off in ways I never expected,” Reitz said.