Barbara Smith and Scott Paulson perform during Ocracoke Alive's Thanksgiving fundraising concert Nov. 28
Barbara Smith and Scott Paulson perform during Ocracoke Alive’s Thanksgiving fundraising concert Nov. 28

By Connie Leinbach

Ocracoke will have its own community steel drum band this spring.

Classes in Caribbean steel drums–open to anyone in the community ages 13 on up–will begin Feb. 15 and run for five weeks in Deepwater Theater, School Road.

According to Scott Paulson of Bethel, Vermont, who will teach the class, no musical training or experience is needed for adults wishing to get their inner reggae on.

“You can have people who’ve never touched an instrument playing a song in a day,” he said. 

That’s because the notes are written on the pans themselves. “I’ll work people through it.”

Most importantly, steel pans create a happy sound.

“It’s like a banjo,” he said. You can’t play depressing music.”

The class, offered in association with Ocracoke Alive, will meet from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and tuition for the 10 sessions is $130. There is some tuition/scholarship support available through Ocracoke Alive by contacting Dave Tweedie, Ocracoke Alive president, at 252-921-0260.

Registration deadline is Jan. 31, and those signing up and paying by Jan. 15 will receive a $10 discount off the fee.

A concert by the community band is scheduled for the evening of March 17.  To view a promo video of the steel pans class, click here.

Tweedie said in an interview that Paulson and his wife and artistic associate Barbara Smith, who will join Paulson later in the spring, instructed Ocracoke Students during Arts Week last year (and two previous years), and will do so again this year.

A video of the 2010 Arts Week program, in which the students in the steel pan band named themselves “The Phytoplanktons,” can be viewed here.

This is an intensive week of artistic instruction in various media for students March 21 to 26.

In addition to Paulson and Smith, Tweedie has so far for the week lined up the Paperhand Puppets (who do the parade during the Ocrafolk Festival) and an Italian videography team.

Ocracoke Alive Thanksgiving concert 2015
Scott Paulson, left, and Barbara Smith, second from right, perform with Dave Tweedie during his “Digital Blues” song, about the fourth-grade bus trip. Gary Mitchell is at right right.

About a steel drum band, Tweedie said it is like a bell choir—having different sections in the musical registry that all work together.

The musical versatility of the duo is a plus for the island, he said.

“They’re like Lou Castro—they play all kinds of instruments,” Tweedie said.

Paulson will room with Lou and his wife Marcy Brenner during the instruction period.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, during Ocracoke Alive’s fund-raising concert in the Community Center, Paulson played pans and the electric bass to accompany Tweedie and others during the show. Smith played saxophone, an instrument rarely heard on the island.

The two are frequent island visitors, having met on the island and later getting married here.

Paulson also is offering private steel drum lessons at $20 per half hour.

To sign up for the class or private instruction, email Paulson at, or call 802-234-6987.

According to the duo’s website,, Paulson has been sharing his love of steel drums, or “pans,” with students of all ages since 2002.

He has a bachelor’s degree in music and has taught traditional band programs in public and private schools for several years.

He and Smith founded an educational nonprofit, The Vermont Independent School of the Arts.

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