PanNotation: The First of its Kind
PanNotation, an online platform that facilitates the purchasing of steelpan music scores and the acquisition of educational materials based on the steelpan, is the first of its kind. The creators wanted a space for composers and arrangers to earn from the sale of their musical creations, while allowing steelpan educators access to academic publications, podcasts, steelband profiles, and other materials. This online store and library aims to be the premiere platform for the global steelpan community. PanNotation is most proud of working on behalf of arrangers in acquiring permissions from composers to aid in the legal sale of arrangements. This process is facilitated through the relationship between PanNotation and the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT). PanNotation is four years in the making and its history is one to share.
The story began in November 2017 at the premiere of the Virtual Steelband II, a global online performance that features hundreds of pannists from around the world, which took place in Indianapolis, Indiana during the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). At the time, Mr. Mark Loquan was preparing to celebrate 20 years of composing music for Panorama and was interested in getting Dr. Mia Gormandy-Benjamin and Mr. Akua Leith on board. The three started discussing many ideas for a big concert to be held in 2019 and an educational platform for Loquan’s music.
When the team of three returned home to Trinidad, the discussions continued. Loquan requested Leith’s assistance with the concert and Gormandy-Benjamin’s assistance with the online educational platform. Loquan simply wanted to make his music available online to be used for educational purposes, but Gormandy-Benjamin saw this as an opportunity to make all pan music available online. This is where the seeds of PanNotation were planted. At first, discussions of the concert and the online platform were one and the same, and included other members of the steelpan community including Amrit Samaroo, Melissa Jimenez, and Loquan’s wife, Pat Loquan. Later joining the team was Kavish Seethahal, an intellectual property lawyer, who helped ensure that PanNotation’s policies, such as copyright, were legally instituted.
With contributions from the team, PanNotation started becoming a reality. A name was assigned, a logo was designed, a mission was conceived, and an initial website to gather interest was created. Web developers were then hired to begin building the online platform that the team envisioned. At first, the platform only included a music score store where arrangers and composers could make their music available for sale. But, as the ideas further developed, the team also dreamt of a subscription platform for other types of information including academic articles, podcasts, audio recordings, steelband profiles, historical data, and lead sheets. Another idea that stemmed from these conversations was a Not-for-Profit arm that will ultimately assist with funding steelpan projects, including international performances, transcription services, and scholarships. The team felt strongly that this should be an opportunity for steelpan communities to start benefiting from the hard work they have done over the past decades.
The team had close ties to the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and the National Academy for the Performing Arts where Dr. Mia Gormandy-Benjamin serves as Assistant Professor of Music, Akua Leith as musical director of the neighbouring National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO), and Amrit Samaroo as arranger and member of the NSSO. Soon, word of PanNotation was spread across the pan students of UTT. Kadesh Clouden, Jamila Reid, and Sachelle Thomas each volunteered to be a part of the process. These students had fresh ideas and were willing to work. During July and August in 2019, they each lead research teams of other students that helped gather information for PanNotation’s library. This was an internship opportunity for the students as they gained experience in research and data analysis.
After spending almost two years preparing for the concert and developing the ideas for PanNotation, the weekend celebration for Mark Loquan’s 20th Anniversary arrived. This weekend included a Music Literacy and Education Conference held on October 12th, 2019 and a celebration concert on October 13th, 2019. The conference featured many music educators from across the region and many members of the steelpan community were in attendance. In addition, a number of organisations and companies held booths in the lobby area that allowed them to further engage with conference attendees.
At the conference, Mark Loquan and Mia Gormandy-Benjamin presented on PanNotation to a room of eager musicians and educators. This was the first time that the concept was presented in public and it was well received. The two presenters answered questions about PanNotation and also took notes on what pannists hoped to gain from such a platform. In particular, the question of quality control was raised since this has been a long-standing issue for steelpan information online. The PanNotation team already discussed quality control, but took the question and comment as a way to reinforce the fact that information shared on the site should be held to a certain standard and go through a quality control panel.
Following the conference, the PanNotation team continued working on the company to ensure its quality and effectiveness. The team now included Mark Loquan, Mia Gormandy-Benjamin, Pat Loquan, Kavish Seethahal, Jamila Reid, and Mark-anthony Baptiste. Together, they worked with PanNotation’s web developers to build a strong and sustainable website. A beta testing phase was initiated and PanNotation gathered valuable feedback from its participants. Therefore, the team decided to take extra time to implement some of these recommendations, which included a better search engine and a more user friendly upload process, just to name a few. PanNotation is now preparing to launch with hopes of filling a necessary gap within the global steelpan market by offering music scores for sale using legal routes, offering access to scholarly information, all while giving back to steelpan communities through its Not-for-Profit.