Q&A With Steel Drum Player Jeff Kershner

Summer has its own built-in ambiance at the Beach Club. The cool water, the warm sun, the chirping birds – the classic sights and sounds of a day at the lake.

However, when the sounds of steel drums come in, the lakeside is suddenly feeling a bit more like a Caribbean retreat. Jeff Kershner, the lead pan player of the Latitude Adjustment steel drum band, spoke about his six years of playing in Big Canoe and what it takes to master this instrument in advance of the group’s performance from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Beach Club.

Q: How long have you been playing the steel drums?  

A: I started out playing harmony pans with several bands in 1985. I’ve been playing lead pan since 2008. (Editors note: The lead pan is the highest and most prominent melody voice in a pan ensemble.)

Q: How did you become the go-to guy for Big Canoe?

A: I was playing at a wedding reception at which Steve Panetta (Big Canoe’s director of wellness activities) was in attendance. He asked if I’d be interested in playing at Big Canoe and the rest is history.

Q: We know that you have played at the Beach Club, but are there any other venues where you’ve performed within our community?

A: I play from time to time at the Wildcat Pool. I’ve also played for special events at the Lodge such as a Caribbean Party in 2019 and the Pearl White Party this past May. Many years ago, I played percussion with the Dekalb Symphony for their yearly outdoor concerts three or four times.

Q: What is it like performing for Big Canoe?

A: Great! It’s such a nice, laid-back atmosphere. The Property Owners, guests and staff are all friendly and appreciative. I believe that the Beach Club is the perfect venue for my music.

Q: Why do you think the steel drum sound has become something people associate with summer?

A: Anybody who’s been to the Caribbean, or on a cruise, or to a Jimmy Buffett concert has heard the steel drum accompanying the various styles of music that have become the anthems of summertime. Anywhere there’s sunshine and/or water there are probably steel drums nearby.

Q: What is something you wish people knew about playing the steel drums?

A: The lead pan that I play is set up clockwise around the circle of fourths. That means that two notes that would be closest together on a piano (for instance C and C#) are furthest apart on my pan. This tuning configuration is unique to the steel pan and makes it especially challenging when you’re first starting out.

Also, when I perform, I play the melody and solo improvisations on the pan. All the other sounds (keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, etc.) are tracks that I’ve recorded. This allows me to create my own arrangements and allows a great diversity of instrumental combinations. It’s as if I had twenty different musicians alternating to back me up.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time performing here?

A: Overall, my lasting memory is of all the folks I’ve gotten to know through the years. If I had to name one most memorable occurrence, it would the day I arrived to find a large crowd gathered in the spot where I usually set up. They had been displaced by a family of bears who were doing their best Yogi impressions with some of the picnic baskets by the pool.

 Q: Any last comments? 

A: Of all the places I play steel pan, Big Canoe has become my favorite venue. The setting and the audience are wonderful and even the drive here from Cobb County is pretty nice. I look forward to a continued partnership and hope folks will stop by to say “hi” when they see me at the Beach Club.

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