Generations-old ensemble going broke, faces end

A steel drum ensemble that's been active in Brooklyn for generations may be nearing the end of its run.

The Metro Steel Orchestra is in desperate need of funds to remain in operation, according to members.

The ensemble is made up mostly of high school students who say the orchestra is more than a hobby -- it's a way of life.

The group is currently preparing for Panorama, an annual musical competition held at the Brooklyn Museum. But without additional funding, there may be no encore for the ensemble after this year's heat.

It costs the group about $25,000 just to participate in events and competitions, and that doesn't include transportation costs or rent for practice facilities.

The Metro Steel Orchestra had to leave practice spaces in Crown Heights and Flatbush as rents rose. The group eventually settled in an abandoned Brownsville lot. Additional costs include tuning the instruments and building competition and parade props.

"We're getting pushed out further and further," says Tony Joseph, the ensemble's president. "And then when we go to rent some of these properties, they want $5,000 a month, $7,000 a month. We don't have that kind of money."

The group has reached out to politicians and area businesses for financial assistance and sponsorships, but so far, Joseph says they've received almost no help.

Panorama takes place Labor Day Weekend at the Brooklyn Museum.

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