Members of the Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron Steel Band rehearse for their Oct. 14 performance at NAMI Walks Summit County.

Covering Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” a young steelpan band takes the iconic beat on a cool Trinidadian detour. It’s rock with a twist of soca (an offshoot of calypso), describes Melanie Stoll, taking a few minutes out from directing her fledging steel band. Stoll, a music teacher at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron, says the band’s musicians have an affinity for rock music, woven creatively with the rhythmic energy of soca into the eight-song set list they will perform at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Walks Summit County on Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-noon at The University of Akron Stile Athletics Field House.

Alumnus Aiden Lushbaugh and senior Chloe Marmet practice a line up of songs on steelpans for their upcoming performance at NAMI Walks Summit County.

As they wrap up their final practice before the popular fundraising and awareness event, the band members express readiness for their upcoming performance.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but feel confident in how we all play together,” says Nick Jagiela. While this is the sophomore’s first year playing the steelpan, the band has played at the NAMI event for the past few years as well as at other local venues. This winter, for instance, the band will present a holiday concert at Kenmore Branch Library on Friday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m.

Alumnus Mattox Barnette shreds the guitar.
Sophomore Nick Jagiela jams on the steel drum.

The band comprises current students and alumni, a total of 19 musicians in all, who pull in listeners with their rock-concert vibe embellished with rich, lyrical electric guitar sounds and loud, fast drum rumbles.

Mattox Barnette and Jerreinn James, both Summit Academy alumni, returned to their old school stomping grounds to jam with the band and practice for the NAMI performance. Both James and Barnette play drums, steelspans, and electric and acoustic guitar. The accomplished young musicians can be found performing around town, including at Highland Square Theatre Open Mic.

Alumnus Jerreinn James takes tunes to a new level on the steelpan.

Stoll says she welcomes back alumni with open arms, particularly for the NAMI Walk, for which she admits to having a soft spot.

“NAMI is a really cool organization with an important mission, helping a lot of people who are dealing with mental illness and removing the stigma,” Stoll says. “It’s a great way for kids to get involved in something outside of school that is a really great cause.”

 Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron music teacher Melanie Stoll plays steelpans with her students. 

In addition to “Crazy Train,” the steel band will perform “Soca Feet,” “Separate Ways,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Disturbia,” “Firework,” “Mad World” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” at NAMI Walks.