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Spotlight on Willmarth

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Students practice their new piece.

Students practice their new piece.

Sophie Miller

Sophie Miller

Students practice their new piece.

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Summerville High School steel drums is a unique program with and even more unique teacher: Mr. Willmarth.

Every program needs a start, and the steel band starts with Mr. Willmarth, who writes much of his own music.

“It gives me the ability to write specifically for their level and their needs, so I can custom tailor my whole lesson-my whole year-round pieces I write for them,” Mr. Willmarth said.

Many of his songs are titled after food from the culture that inspired the songs musical style, like “Jerk Chicken” for Jamaican music and “Black Beans and Rice” for Cuban music.

The band is even doing a Caribbean Night in the spring where they will perform while guests eat authentic Caribbean food provided by the school culinary arts program.

“I just love that it exposes students to world music and exposes them to styles of music that they normally wouldn’t get in our other music programs,” said Mr. Willmarth

Mr. Willmarth has taught percussion and steel drums here at Summerville for 6 years. The steel drums program has grown under his guidance from two bands to five.

They have earned superior at the state steel band festival every year they participated. They also have played at the Virginia Pan Fest and plan to play a joint concert with Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach.

“Mr. Willmarth is a super talented musician, writer, composer, arranger. The reason why we’re probably the best steel band in the state is because of what he does. He’s the hardest working teacher in this school, period,” Mr. Church said.

“He’s awesome. He just cares so much about all of his students, and he just wants us to play well and have a good time,” said Meredith O’Dea, Summerville steel band student.

I guess you could say Mr. Willmarth marches to the beat of his own drum.

Students practice their new piece.
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Spotlight on Willmarth