Hopes to teach
Born in St. Joseph, the oldest town in Trinidad and Tobago, Duvano (Duh-vah-no) Garnes attended primary school – where his mother is music instructor – in his home town. He went to secondary school at Fatima College in nearby Port-of-Spain, the nation’s capital.
In 2006, Garnes earned a bachelor of science degree from Livingstone College, Salisbury, N.C. After working in Houston, Texas where an uncle lives – he entered the WSU chemistry graduate program in fall 2007. Alex Li, chemistry faculty member, is his adviser. Garnes, who “walked” during WSU Fall Commencement on Dec. 11, will complete his thesis later this month.
After continuing as a WSU teaching assistant during spring 2011 semester, Garnes hopes to teach chemistry at a two-year or four-year college.
Hear what Garnes says and you will know he speaks from the heart.
He also plays music from the heart. An example was a week before Christmas at Pullman Regional Hospital. Without prior arrangement, Garnes, 29, arrived at the hospital with his steel drum, the national musical instrument of his country. A hospital representative approved his request to play.
While he played near the piano beside the hospital lobby, Sheree’ Collins of WSU Academic Media Services, and her grandson, 7-year-old Tyler Druffel, a Pullman Jefferson School student, stopped to listen. They were intrigued by Garnes’ talent and the sounds they heard.
Why play at the hospital? “My family’s back in Trinidad. I miss them. I’m lonely at times. In the hospital, I think some people are lonely. I wanted to bring some joy to them,” Garnes said. “There is something about Christmas that makes me feel especially good about sharing and caring.”
With family and friends
Garnes’ steel drum has been heard before near and on campus. He played at the start of fall semester for “Party in the Park,” a cultural exhibition in Reaney Park. He played during an International (student) Center Coffee Hour. He also plays at his near-campus church, the St. Thomas More Catholic Student Center.
Garnes also plays for chemistry students because he finds “the more students are exposed to different cultures, (the more) it opens them up to learning. Music is part of my culture.”
Fashioned from metal oil barrel tops pounded concave, the steel drum has its roots in discarded oil drums during World War II. A steel drum is not really a percussion instrument, rather it “sings.”
Garnes started playing the steel drum when he was about five years old. In 1988, at age six, he was a member of his school’s steel band orchestra, which performed at the University of Miami, Fla. He also played in a family steel drum band with his parents, sister and three brothers.
Connected to culture
As an undergraduate at North Carolina’s Livingstone College, his home country was, in a sense, not too far away. He had a roommate and classmates from Trinidad and Tobago. But in Pullman, he is one of a few from his country.
“I miss home and the culture of home. That’s the difficult thing for me personally,” said Garnes. “Playing the steel drum and listening to steel drum music on CDs keeps me grounded.”
And those for whom he performs like what they hear: “People are impressed with the sound of the instrument. It’s unique,” he said.