Loudon students make their own kind of music

School band uses garbage cans as instruments

By Robert Wilson knoxnews.com

LOUDON - A passel of Loudon County kids have developed a can-do attitude about music, with emphasis on the "can" part.

And, even if their music would be almost certain to give a symphony conductor bad dreams, they are having fun, and that's what counts.

So say members of the Fort Loudoun Middle School Trashcan Band, 21 youngsters with rhythm in their souls and enough energy to make TVA want to hide in a closet.

Under the direction of 6th-grade teacher Scott Hinds, the band is in its third year of doing exactly what its name implies, using trash cans as musical instruments.

Though admittedly a little heavy on percussion - like 100 percent - the band can coax a variety of sounds from their instruments, depending on where the player hits the can or the lid.

When the band does its pre-performance warm-up, it sounds sort of like you're in an aluminum outbuilding during a Texas hailstorm.

"My ears have calluses," Hinds says.

But, when it comes together, everybody working in sync and on the same beat, it takes on a primal feel and can momentarily make you forget that these are metal trash cans being assaulted with sticks of wood.

The Fort Loudoun Middle School Trashcan Band has been asked to perform at halftime of the Lady Vols' game against Duke on Feb. 16, which will be televised on ESPN2.

The trash-can band program is supported by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, which basically buys trash cans and drumsticks, Hinds says.

They don't need a sound system; they are plenty loud without one.

The Trashcan Band is an extra-curricular activity at Fort Loudoun that has become so popular that Hinds had 50 kids audition this school year for the 21 spots with the band. Kids stay after school to beat the dickens out of a trash can, along with their like-minded friends.

Some, like 7th-grader Joe Burch, 12, are into music beyond trash cans. He plays drums with a rock band ("and some country") and clarinet in the school band.

Joe, along with Alissa Bradshaw, 13; Zach Garner, 13; and Dakota Green, 14, all 8th-graders, said the activity provides a release after a tough school day.

"You get rid of, like, anger and stuff," Alissa said. "If you're angry, you can go beat on something."

It's somewhat more structured than that, but all agree the Trashcan Band can put a cork in their aggressions, at least for a while.

And they are unanimous in one other thing. They think Hinds is the coolest.

He's "one of the family," Zach says.

"He's like a big kid," Alissa says.

Hinds, who is in the early stages of his teaching career, is a showman, playing rockabilly slap bass with the Maryville-based band Pistol Creek: Catch of the Day. He is moderately famous for his exaggerated, energetic movement and for occasionally standing on his doghouse bass as he plays.

Hinds says the band members come up with about half their rhythms on their own, and he provides the other half.

The routines have intricate timings, and the kids even add some choreographed moves where they hit each other's cans - trash cans, that is - and pop their sticks together. Some use the trash-can lids as cymbals.

All in all, it's an exercise in teamwork, problem-solving and discipline, and the kids really get a bang out of it, you might say.