SoMiSPO performance inspires USM international students


The University of Southern Mississippi Steel Pan Orchestra, a renowned 30-piece steel pan orchestra, performs across the Southeast. Playing at home under the direction of its founder, School of Music instructor John Wooton, SoMiSPO will accompany guest artist Andy Narell in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium March 22 at 7:30 p.m.

The performance will feature music by Narell including songs from his most recent album “Oui ma Chérie!” such as Visibly Absent and One More Touch.

“We are very excited and honored to have Andy Narell back on the Southern Miss campus for the fifth time,” Wooton said. “All the music we will perform was written and arranged by Andy Narell.”

Narell has played in hundreds of concerts and performances all over the world in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the U.S and Canada.

Narell is an international artist who connects deeply with the international student members of SoMiSPO.

Daron Roberts, a junior percussion major at USM, is an international student from San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago. Roberts said he is extremely excited to work with Narell.

“[Narell is] one of the few people that has unveiled the true potential of this instrument and has become world-renowned in his craft,” Roberts said.

Roberts said his first experience learning to play instruments began with the djembe, a West African Drum, at the age of 2 and later began playing the steel pan at the age of 5.

“My mom took me to a steel pan orchestra named ‘Golden Hands’ in San Fernando, Trinidad, and that is where it all started for me,” Roberts said.

The presence of a steel pan orchestra on campus was a contributing factor to Robert’s decision to enroll at USM. He said this was of much interest to him because not many universities have a well-established steel pan orchestra.

“Because this is a part of my culture, every performance with this group is a reminder of where I come from,” Roberts said. “It makes me proud to know that this beautiful instrument was invented in my country and can be appreciated by many across the globe.”

Roberts said working with Narell motivates him to pursue his goal of introducing the unfamilair to steel pan. He said he aspires to break the creative boundary of what the steel pan is capable of.

Alex Ocón, a freshman performance and percussion major at USM, is an international student from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Ocón said he has been playing percussion since he was 13 years old.

“I initially didn’t like music, and I didn’t want to play the drums,” Ocón said.

However, encouragement from his mother changed his outlook. He said his mother knew he needed an outlet and a career path, so he began taking music classes.

“After three years of studying music theory and performance, I finally realized it was my passion,” Ocón said.

Ocón came to USM on a music scholarship and was introduced to the various performance bands on campus, and soon joined SoMiSPO.

“I was super excited when I heard that Andy Narell would be playing with us,” Ocón said. “Working with a percussionist such as Andy Narell shows me that if I work hard enough, I can be successful like him.”

Ocón said each time he plays he tries to be better than the last.

“This performance means a lot to me because percussion performance is my life, and I feel excited when I play,” Ocón said.

Tickets are $5 for students, free to those with student IDs and $10 for general admission.