Guest Spotlight – Author Kimberly Roberts Tells Children Why The Caribbean is Truly Jammin’!Jun 23rd, 2012 | By Jessica Parnell | Category: Featured Articles, Guest Spotlight
“Down near the equator
in the Western Hemisphere.
there’s a place that’s warm,
every day of every year.
Bright blue crystal waters
lapping at the shore-
grab a compass and a map:
you’re ready to explore.”
Kimberly Roberts fell in love with the sound of the steel drum the very first time that she heard it. As a college student majoring in music education, steel band class was an elective that she just happened to stumble upon. A life-long love and interest in all styles of Caribbean music and its culture quickly followed. As part of her job as a South Carolina Artist-in-Residence, Kimberly travels around to schools performing educational assemblies and teaching residency programs.
Kimberly’s Jammin’ Geography- Caribbean Cruise assembly teaches children that “Jamaica is the island where reggae has its roots” and “Trinidad’s the land where calypso fills the air.” A member of the Pantasia Steel Band since 1994, Kimberly and her fellow band members bring these and other styles of Caribbean music to life. During these fast paced and exciting presentations, students learn about pan (steel drum), the history of Caribbean music, Trinidad & Tobago culture, different styles of Caribbean music and how a steel drum is made. Students enjoy a musical demonstration, tracing the evolution of the steel drum from the early times of the tamboo bamboo band to the modern day steel drum.
“While performing my assemblies, I discovered that children knew little, if anything, about the Caribbean. At best, children knew of islands, palm trees and pirates. My book Jammin’ Geography – Caribbean Cruise, is an attempt to educate children about many aspects of the Caribbean in a fun and kid-friendly way.”
Yet writing a book for children does not simply involve the written word. Kimberly works in conjunction with her illustrator, Ellen Pitts, to produce vivid pictures that describe her words and inner feelings about the Caribbean. Ellen is a retired art teacher, and a personal friend of Kimberly’s– so together they embark on brainstorming sessions in the mountains of Tennessee. According to Kimberly, “Many of the illustrations were a result of me knowing what I wanted to depict, but not having the artistic ability to paint what I saw in my mind. Ellen was able to help create it for me.”
So what IS the fascination with the steel drum, or pan, all about? According to Kimberly, steel drums are the only significant new acoustic instrument of the 20th century. Developed by the people of Trinidad, the steel drum evolved over many years and was initially more a product of the lower class – who wanted to be heard – above everything else. Steel drums are fashioned from 55 gallon oil drums. They reached their most recognizable form around the World War II era of history. There have been many improvements made to the steel drum since its birth – and Kimberly’s school assemblies do a historical demonstration tracing the steel drum from times of post slavery to the present. Fascinating stuff!
According to Kimberly, “Most children have never seen a professional steel band in person. This in itself is an experience for the students. We introduce all of the other instruments found in a steel band, introduce several styles of Caribbean music, and have students participate with clapping rhythms and singing. The assemblies include a historical demonstration tracing the evolution of instruments and music in Trinidad. We also share how a steel drum is made and the science behind sound waves and how the steel drum actually produces its characteristic sound.”
Writing a children’s book was a way for Kimberly to take her passion and enthusiasm for the Caribbean culture and music to a new and fascinating level. As a child, the books her parents read to her developed her love for the written word. Kimberly has both fond and comforting memories of books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, and Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. She also remembers a book her pediatrician had in his waiting room every year, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, a book Kimberly looked forward to reading as she sat through the long wait. Inspiring other children to write, read, and participate in the arts is a wonderful way to give back.
Kimberly’s own book, Jammin’ Geography – A Caribbean Cruise, is available for purchase on her website . She also performs educational programs with her steel band Pantasia for numerous homeschool groups, as well as weddings, private parties, corporate events, festivals, or any occasion requiring fun, education about far-away cultures, and family-friendly music. Look her up!
Additional homeschooling posts:
Homeschooling on the Road-Vision
Day Three-Catching the Vision Today we returned to Focus on the Family to take a tour of the administrative buildings (which we were unable to do yesterday) and we were inspired by their vision and by how God has blessed their ministry.