OUR KEY PEOPLE
Executive/Artistic Director Gary Gibson is a percussionist with a long and diverse local performance history, including section percussion on film soundtracks with musicians of the Seattle Symphony, working in the pit at Seattle’s 5th Avenue and Paramount theaters, drumming with almost every big band in town, playing vibraphone in numerous local jazz groups, and, of course, playing steel pan at hundreds of engagements both public and private. He remains active as both a classical and jazz percussionist in the Seattle area. He has kept busy as an educator locally as well, having taught full time at Cornish College of the Arts for eight years (and part-time for another five), and was a regular faculty at the Jazz Port Townsend summer jazz camp.
His history with the steel pan goes back to his childhood; after hearing a steel band for the first time, he took his father’s hammer and sacrificed his round steel saucer sled to build an instrument with four discernible notes. A few years later, during his freshman year at Wichita State University, the school purchased their first set of steel drums, and his lifelong steelpan career began. He holds a masters degree in music performance, but also studied composition and orchestration with Pulitzer Prize nominee Dr. Walter Mays. He is regularly commissioned to compose original works (often involving the steel pan or steel band in some way), and is the composer of the most significant work in existence for steel band and choir, “In the Shadows of the Forest,” a nine-movement, 50-minute “pan cantata” with a libretto based on the folkloric characters of Trinidad. He has received numerous commissions from symphony orchestras, including the National Sinfonia of Trinidad; his latest commission is a 20-minute, seven movement work, based on the history of the steel pan, for steel pan ensemble and orchestra for the Greater Bridgeport (CT) Youth Symphony.
Gibson has recorded four critically acclaimed albums of original progressive music featuring the steel pan, is the winner of two out of three categories of Trinidad’s “Symphony & Steel” composition contest, and is a winner of Trinidad’s “Panorama National Steel Band Championship.” He is known internationally as a clinician and concert/recording artist, and makes numerous trips each year to adjudicate at steel band festivals or be a guest concert artist with college and high school steel band groups around the country. Locally, he has directed steel bands from 5th grade up in the Kent and Edmonds school districts, and has been a clinician to several other school steel bands in the area. He also has directed the University of Washington Steelband. His sheet music of original steel band arrangements sell worldwide. You can visit his own website here, and see/hear his performances on his youtube channel here. This is one of the more popular ones: Minute Waltz.
Gibson founded Steel Magic Northwest in order to recreate and build on the examples of similar programs he has worked with in his travels around the United States. The son of two social workers, he feels it is time to give back in his own community, giving kids and lifelong-learning adults a positive focus and the opportunity to grow and create something fabulous, and to create an organization and an ensemble that the community can be proud of and which can serve as a national model.
Board President, Scott Ketron, is the newly appointed Executive Director of the Washington Music Educators Association, after decades of experience as an educator, non-profit administrator, and performer. Balancing these three worlds started early in his career in Spokane as a member of the Spokane Symphony and freelance drummer. He was also a member of the popular group “Happy Hammers,” a group which played many elementary school assemblies, where it became clear that music – in particular percussion music – could inspire young people, open minds and introduce new worlds and new ways to think.
After completing a BA Degree at Eastern Washington University, he went on to earn a Masters of Music in percussion performance at Central Washington University. In addition to his focus on performance, Scott also taught lecture classes and ensembles, such as the jazz and percussion ensembles. Continuing west in 1991, Scott ended up in the Seattle area working as a drummer and teaching applied percussion with the Imperials Music and Youth Organization, where he developed one of the most dynamic after-school percussion programs in the Northwest. At one point, the programming included family drumming classes, percussion ensemble, African Marimba, and some crossover classes in Afro-Cuban Jazz and Brazilian Jazz, employing six different teachers with over a hundred kids per week. The program also sponsored numerous percussion festivals for high school-aged students, as well as in private lessons statewide. The festivals had a strong positive influence on how public school educators teach percussion in the state of Washington.
The Imperials later became Music Works Northwest. Scott eventually worked the front office with job titles like Program Development Manager, Interim Executive Director, Artistic Director, Executive Director and Director of Programs and Community Outreach. Under his leadership, Music Works had an average annual budget of 1.2 million dollars. He navigated an extremely difficult period for Music Works and is credited with the school’s survival and eventually leading it to progress and stability.
Retiring from Music Works after 23 years in June of 2014, Scott has not lost his passion for those early years of the Imperials, where the programs were strong and impactful. He is driven by the awesome potential for Steel Magic Northwest to have similar (if not greater) impact on the young people, adult amateurs, and the community in general.