Ryan Roberts - Apprentice Builder/Tuner
Ryan Roberts has been studying and perfecting his craft of the steel pan art form for over 15 years. A native to Virginia Beach, VA, He has performed at many events nationwide, including competing in the New York National Panorama Competition, The Virginia Beach PANorama Music Festival, and the Dr. Ellie Mannette's Festival of Steel. Ryan was involved with 2 prestigious steel orchestras in Hampton Roads, VA. During his time in Mosaic Steel Orchestra and The Virginia Arts Festival's Rhythm Project All Stars, Ryan was given chance to perform with them throughout the United States. From 2009-2014, Ryan was the Director of the Kempsville Middle School "Pans of Steel" Steel Orchestra where he composed and arranged the orchestra's music. Ryan is currently studying at Mannette Musical Instruments; learning the craft of construction and tuning steel pan instruments under the direction of the M.M.I Staff and Dr. Ellie Mannette.
Eric Fountain - Builder/Tuner
Eric Fountain is a Builder/Tuner at Mannette Musical Instruments. Eric graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. He has taken part at the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) and spoke at the New Perspective in African Performing and Visual Arts International Conference (Ohio University) where he presented “Influences of African Music within the Relationship of Steel Drum Music”. Eric has been a member of Azaguno since 2002. Fountain has traveled and performed, working with many steel drum bands in the United States and St. Croix, along with Azaguno, West Virginia University African and Dance Ensemble, Steel Drum Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Kevin Freison Ensemble, CB Steel Drum Studio, Motown Steel, Andy Narell, and Jeff Narell.
Rob Davis - Tuner
Rob Davis comes from a musical family of instrumentalists, vocalists, and music educators. He was a student at West Virginia University when Ellie began his long association there in the early 1990's, and was among Ellie's first apprentices at WVU. His teachers included Phil Faini, then head of WVU's percussion department, and later Dean of the College of Creative Arts, who was largely responsible for bringing Ellie to the University. He later taught private lessons for several years to young percussionists from pre-teen to college age.
He has performed as a classical percussionist with chamber symphonies and touring wind bands; as a steel drum player and as a marimbist in duos and small touring groups; and regularly as a drum set player in musical theater productions. His chief responsibility at Mannette Musical Instruments consists of working with Ellie on the tuning of Professional Series instruments. In addition, he has traveled extensively to attend festivals and perform on-site tunings of whole steel bands and individual drums. These travels have taken him to all corners of the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico, and England.
Chanler Bailey - Builder/Tuner
Chanler Bailey has been involved with the percussive arts since the early age of 5 when he began private studies. Much of his early career was devoted to marching percussion and culminated with 4 years marching in the Star of Indiana Drum & Bugle Corps and West Virginia University drumlines. He taught numerous marching programs including 3 years at WVU. While studying Percussion Performance at WVU, Chanler became interested in world percussion, focusing on African drumming and Steel Drums. He began to learn the art of making steel drums in 1992 with world-renowned steel drum maker Dr. Elliott Mannette. He has been working with Ellie since that time learning to build, tune and service the instruments. In 2007, Chanler created CB Studios, a private steel drum instruction studio, where he teaches steel bands and performs. Chandler is currently building and tuning steel drums with Ellie at Mannette Musical Instruments, teaching at his studio, and travels as a clinician and performer.
Keith Moone - Builder/Tuner
Keith is currently an apprentice to Dr. Ellie Mannette, father of the modern day steel drum, and is a Builder/Tuner at Mannette Musical Instruments. A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Keith’s instruction in steel band performance began in middle school as a member of the Rhythm Project, a community outreach program focused in musical expression through steel drums and African drum and dance. While with the Rhythm Project, Keith has performed at various events including school functions, conferences, and political events. The group was also invited to Canada to be a part of Nova Scotia’s International Drum Tattoo. Keith received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from West Virginia University and performed at (PASIC) as part of WVU’s Steel Drum Ensemble. From 2005 to 2008 he was instructor of the West Virginia University Community Steel Drum Ensemble. And in February 2013 Keith was invited by Andy Narell to perform in Trinidad during Panorama. Keith has been a member of Azaguno since 2005 and has had the opportunity to perform with the group internationally. Performances include the “Dance Immersion Showcase” in Toronto, Canada and as part of Ju Percussion Group’s “International Percussion Conference” in Taiwan.
Dr. Ellie Mannette - Master Builder/Tuner
Born in Trinidad in 1926, Ellie developed a love of percussive instruments at a young age. The island was alive with music in the 1930's when rival bands would meet in Port-of-Spain for fierce competition. Bands used various everyday items- from trash cans to buckets- to make music, but it was Ellie who first thought to use empty oil barrels from the local military base.
When Ellie transformed his first oil barrel into a steel pan, history was born. Soon word got out that he had created a drum with the unheard of, ability to create a melody and his steel pans were in high demand. The TASPO (Trinidad All Steel Percussive Orchestra) was invited to Great Britain to showcase the new instrument at the Festival of Britain.
Soon thereafter, he traveled to the United States to create the U.S. Navy Steel Band. Ellie went on to build and create hundreds of Steel Bands all across the US.
It wasn't until 1991 that Ellie's travels brought him to the place he now calls home. He came to Morgantown, WV for a guest semester at West Virginia University to teach students to build and play steel drums. Truly connecting with the university and city, he soon launched the University Tuning Project. This venture later evolved into Mannette Musical Instruments.
Now, Ellie is involved in the creation of every Mannette Musical Instruments steel pan. By owning a Mannette drum, you're owning a piece of history.
Ellie has received countless awards of recognitions. A few include the NEO National Heritage Fellowship Award, Hummingbird Medal of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2003, he was admitted to the Hall of Fame of the Percussive Arts Society of the United States. Ellie was recognized by the Smithsonian Institute in July 2012.