It All Began for me in Kansas actually . . .
" I learned to play the West Indies Steel Drums of Trinidad beginning in 85’ while attending Wichita State University as a Percussion Major, studying Ethnomusicology with grad students, Gary Gibson and Ricardo Garcia. "
Chris's passion for Steel Drums has evolved over many good years and has become for him, an extraordinarily enjoyable expression of life. It’s a palatable feeling that is known and shared by his eclectic mix of fans of all ages. His smooth solo steel drum performances are purely inspired music for the soul.
"It may sound corny, or whatever, but I’ve often thought my pans are like some sort of satellite dish channeling energy because I get such positive vibes when I am performing. It just radiates up from the pans through me, and projects out to my audience. I just really love that."
While based in Los Angeles, Chris performs year-around nation wide, traveling and performing for special events and an endless variety of corporate and private functions by request each year.
Invariably at most any event, people will gravitate up close and watch with wonderment as his hands stir up sounds of summer inside his chromed pans of steel. When the music stops, and their spell has lifted, they will often inquire, “So, how is it that you came to play the steel drums?”, and I will say, “It all began in Kansas for me” . . .
The Early Years, Kansas
Growing up in McPherson, Kansas, Chris found many outlets to express his creativity and he explored them all with support and encouragement from both his parents. He was very active throughout his early school years in painting, drawing, acting, teaching, drumming, singing, and performing in every way imaginable including dabbling in childhood hobbies of magic, and puppetry. Credits for his early inspiration and influence are first and foremost his amazing parents, and his many exceptional McPherson, KS teachers:
Mrs. Munce, Mrs. Flemming, Mr. Henry, Mike Connel, Jim Pauls, Les Sperling, Karl Ivers, Frosty Teghetoff, Al Trollman, Ms. Harris, Lonny and Elizabeth Liljegren, Betty Houchen, and Barbara Cole.
The allure of Music and the exhilaration of entertaining an audience quickly overshadowed his interests in art as he became consumed by playing drums at the age of 10. It was a shared featured drum solo at his 6th Grade Band concert, just two weeks after buying his first drum set, and he knew he was hooked on performing.
Music studies and life experiences continued to present Chris with opportunities to explore a variety of musical styles and genres including Jazz, Concert, and Marching bands, Symphonic & Orchestra ensembles, musical pit orchestras, and competitions in State and local music competitions and State Jazz bands.
* * *
At the age of 14 he began drumming professionally across the state of Kansas with Jerry Driskell’s country swing band, "Southern Comfort", ala Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, with twin fiddles and a steel guitar. While in the band, "Southern Comfort", Chris was privileged to perform alongside Western Swing Hall of Fame guitarist, Milford Wedel.
* * * *
Next he entered a diverse, five-year foray into Highland Bagpipe music, as his high school architectural drawing teacher and bagpiper, Lonny Liljegren, tapped him into becoming the drum sergeant and lead tip for the newly formed hometown City of McPherson Bagpipe band. From high school, and continuing through college, Chris actively participated in teaching, performing, competing and ultimately judging Highland Drumming competitions in Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, Ohio, California, and Kansas.
Chris studied with 5 time World Champion Highland Snare Drummer, James King in Kansas City, MO; and also drummed in competition for the Kansas City St. Andrews Grade One band at the 1986 Chicago Highland Games.
* * * * *
During his high school senior year, age 17, he began prepping for college, taking music theory classes, and enrolling at Hutchinson Community College where he studied Marimba privately with Robert Lee. Then in 85’ he was accepted into Wichita State University and began his study of bachelor music education degree in percussion at with renowned Percussion Instructor Dr. J. C. Combs.
While in college he played in various Rock, Top Forty Dance, and Blues bands; Toured Europe with the 1987 Wichita State University European Tour Orchestra; and just after his college days played Drums and Percussion briefly for the RingLing Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus.
* * * * * *
It was through his course of study at WSU, Chris was first introduced to the inspired sound of steel drums and met Pan Masters Andy and Jeff Narell, Tom Miller, grand Calypsonian David Rudder, and the father and creator of the modern steel drum, Dr. Ellie Mannette; and formed his first steel drum band, Stainless Steel.
Stainless Steel was originally the brainchild of grad assist Rick Garcia, as an offshoot of his required freshman percussion course of Ethnomusicology, and functioned primarily as a University group under his direction until he graduated, married and left the University, passing down the namesake band.
At that time Chris partnered with classmate Darren Dyke and continued on with the band as a professional project with Darren acting as music director, and Chris as role of business manager and front person. The two then auditioned the remaining positions and formed the new band Stainless Steel. Band members Benjamin Munevar, Phil Hawkins, and Darren Dyke wrote most all of the group’s new original music; and it is fairly safe to say the mostly instrumental music was heavily influenced and inspired by Andy Narell, and band member Benjamin Munevar’s own Columbian roots.
Stainless Steel was a serious endeavor for all the band members and incredible learning experience for all things band business related. The group traveled, recorded, performed large concert shows, made television appearances, music videos and enjoyed impressive overall regional success throughout the Midwest from 1986 -1991 touring the states of Minnesota, Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas ...
opening concerts and sharing stages with such notable performers as legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, steel drum virtuoso Andy Narell, jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, comedian Sinbad, power jazz group Tower of Power, singer guitarist Bonnie Raitt, classic rock and roll band Head East, blues guitarist Jeff Healey, and reggae great Steel Pulse.
Chris executive produced two recordings with Stainless Steel on the band's World Beat Record label: A four song EP, "Know Bounds, No Barriers", and CD, " What You See".
* * * * * * *
After college and Stainless Steel, Chris freelanced with studio owner, sound engineer Steve Falke at Big Dog, and Cornerstone recording studios; and later managed the drum department at Jim Starkey Music Center in Wichita. He began experimenting with solo steel pan performances and fronting new steel drum bands with various formats while playing gigs between KC, Wichita, and South Padre Island TX, until ultimately relocating to Los Angeles in October of 95' in search of year-around sun and greater professional exposure and opportunity.
While establishing in LA - "paying his dues" as the saying goes, Chris supplemented gigs, making ends meet by working and becoming a mobile computing expert at a fast new upstart company called Mobile Planet.
Mobile Planet was at that time, a young mobile computing specialty company with focus on government contracts and fortune 500 companies. It was the mid 90’s at the forefront of the laptop and palmtop computer age, and Mobile Planet was at the cutting edge of mobile computing technology. This experience would eventually seed Chris’s inspiration to utilize computer MIDI sequencing instruments, and combine it with his own voice and live solo steel drum performance that he continues today.
On occasion you may see and hear Chris performing with a full band, blending his percussive and singing talents with various LA groups and seasoned professionals, but his true creative niche and passion is fully appreciated with his unique solo steel drum performance. Experience for yourself the amazing musical phenomena that is pure steel sunsation . . . Chris Arpad.
* * * * * * * *
Chris, words and smiles cant express our gratitude...You were OUTSTANDING and have no Idea how many compliments you have received from both family and friends. Being of Samoan descent and my wife Cuban, you filled the room with sounds of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Your web page and BIO do you no justice, people just need to hear what you can do. You have a friend and a family for life!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks again for a night that we will remember forever. Your friends Scott and Damaris Talanoa...
It is my pleasure to recommend to you Christopher Arpad, steel drummer. Christopher is an excellent musician specializing in Caribbean island music. His out-going personality shows through in his performance.
Audiences love him. He excels at both small and large venues.
Christopher has worked quite often through my office. He consistently gets rave reviews.
Musicians Union, Local 47
This is a letter of high recommendation for musician, Christopher Arpad/Steel Sunsations. The Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism, and Cayman Airways, Los Angeles, has hired Steel Sunsations for the last two years in helping to promote the Cayman Islands throughout California.
Mr. Arpad has also played for other companies on our recommendation. Mr. Arpad is a very talented person and very professional.
Regional Sales Manager
Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism
I always like sharing new discoveries with everyone especially when they work for any of our destinations. Specifically, Chris Arpad, a one-man steel drummer is incredible for just about any event. But his talents are not just limited to the steel drum rather a plethora of music genres.
We have used Chris now for several events and has been a great hit each time and works well especially when a client wants a large band with a small budget.
Sr. Sales Manager
California Leisure Consultants LA
When Mr. Arpad performed at our library, he was incredibly cooperative and willing to not only perform but to teach as well. He was a fantastic performer and knew about the history of his music. The audience loved his performance and asked to have him back as soon as possible. We are looking forward to having him back to the Agoura Hills Library because we knew that everyone in the audience will not only enjoy his music, but also learn something about the music he plays.
Mary E Jones
Agoura Hills Library
On behalf of Shapiro & Company and the McKinney Downtown Association,
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for performing for the McKinney Art & Jazz Fest 2003. Your performance was incredible and the feedback we received was fantastic.
Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule and joining us. It was a true pleasure to work with you and I hope to work with you again.
Cara Blackmon Harting
Shapiro & Company
I’ve known Christopher as a very talented and dependable Steel Drummer for two years. His pleasant disposition also welcomes a very comfortable working relationship.
I manage the Helen Albert West Hollywood Farmers Market and both shoppers and vendors were very enthusiastic about this Steel Drumming performance. He has been recommended continuously within our Human Resources Department and has performed at several of our city sponsored events. The variety of his playing styles offers something for all ages if you didn’t recognize one of his tunes, you were certainly whistling along with his next song!
Farmers’ Market/Community Garden Specialist
Last year we engaged Mr. Arpad’s services as the live musical entertainment for a consumer show we put on each year at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. We had had other musical entertainers in past years, but as we tried to offer something different each year, decided to hire Chris after meeting him at another event.
I must admit Chris surpassed all our expectations on several levels. Not only is he an accomplished musician, performer, and entertainer, his music was just the thing for our event and quite a hit, but his low key, easygoing manner and upbeat personality added a very positive dimension to his participation in our event as well.
Indeed, in assessing what we wanted to do for our event this year, we decided to bring Chris back to our event for the second straight year, without hesitation.
While our consumer event is a travel show, and we engage Chris to provide an upbeat mood and be in the background, a number of people were so engaged by his music that they spent much time just standing by to enjoy it.
I also don’t mean to demean the quality of Chris’ work as merely utilitarian background noise or elevator sound. We have been lucky to meet and engage the services of a wonderful musician, whose positive outlook on life is clearly communicated thru his playing, and his music in engaging and upbeat.
We appreciate the opportunity to be able to recommend him.
On behalf of Wonderland Elementary School , and The Friends of Wonderland Parent Organization, I want to thank you again You were absolutely fantastic, and I have had many e-mails and calls saying how much people, and the children, enjoyed your performance.
You should be proud to know that your involvement helped bring in record numbers of people to the event, and over $6,000 (after expenses) was raised for the school, which will be used for the school library, books, repairs and teachers aides.
I will be on the lookout for any opportunities to mention and promote Christopher Arpad - Steel Sunsations, and to pass your name and details on, here at Twentieth Century Fox, as well as amongst other colleagues who work at different studios and companies.
My heartfelt thanks,
VP, Creative, TV Music
Fox Music, Inc.