Virtual Steelpan Conference 2022

PanNotation’s first Virtual Steelpan Conference took place on April 30 and May 1, 2022. The conference featured presenters from around the world sharing various ideas about the steelpan. If you missed it, you can take a look at the presentations below. For the YouTube playlist of all presentations, please CLICK HERE

Panel 1: New Approaches in Pan Education

“A Musical Approach to Teaching Caribbean History During Steelband Rehearsal”

Dr. Andrew Martin (United States)

ABSTRACT: One of the most common issues plaguing steelband educators across the globe is the general lack of steelpan history and cultural understanding among their students and band members. Barriers such as limited rehearsal time, age of steelband members, knowledge of steelband directors, and cultural demographics of individual steelbands combine to greatly impact and challenge the teachable moments for educators. Despite great strides in the past decade, steelband directors throughout the Caribbean, North America, and indeed worldwide often struggle to incorporate steelband history—from a musical and cultural perspective—into rehearsals. Reasons for these struggles are numerous, and many efforts approach teaching pertinent historical and cultural connections of the music and instruments (steelpans) separately in the abstract to their actual music, rather than as a living entity present in the very music being played by their steelbands. A large-scale analysis of steelband educators in Trinidad, United Kingdom (London), New York, Antigua and the greater United States has identified several key tenants and tools of teaching and learning applicable to teaching steelband history to students and adults alike. Central to this approach is identifying traditional Caribbean methods of steelband rehearsal techniques with measurable musical goals and employing these methods while simultaneously highlighting their historical and cultural importance during their precise moment of deployment in rehearsal. This paper will introduce key issues facing teachers of steelband history, explore typical barriers to effective steelband history teaching, and use Andre White’s arrangement of the calypso “Rose” by the Mighty Sparrow as a case study for demonstrating several teaching best practices that combine traditional and western steelband teaching tools with their related cultural history. In particular, this analysis will include identifying best practices for integrating steelband history and culture within the context of steelband rehearsals.


“‘Learn Music On…’ tuition book series for The Steel Pan”

Delphina James (United Kingdom)


“Steeling the Show”

Malaina Moffett (Trinidad and Tobago)

ABSTRACT: ‘Steeling the Show’ is an educational series that will mainly feature younger members of the steelpan fraternity. It is a fun, entertaining, and educational talk show that will highlight different accomplishments, events, visions, and goals of young and mature arrangers, performers, tuners, innovators, entrepreneurs, managers, and educators in steelpan. This series comprises ten (10) episodes each highlighting a different theme or category. Examples of these categories would include females in steelpan, arrangers under 25, Junior Pan arrangers, educators in steelpan, Single Pan, Small Band, Medium Band, and Large Band arrangers, the business of steelbands, steelpan makers and tuners, and development in steelpan. Each episode features different young people that fall under each of the categories mentioned, as well as, will feature performances from upcoming pannists and musicians who are looking for platforms to jump-start their careers. This initiative is a partnership between IAMCREATIVE and Altered Creations. These two companies are owned by young musicians and music educators who would like to create a platform where the youth in steelpan can have a voice of their own. These episodes will be streamed on popular social media platforms, be digitally documented, classed as research, and can also be used for showing on wider broadcasting channels and for other educational purposes. Our goal, through this initiative, is to give the youth in steelpan an opportunity to enhance their knowledge about the business of steelpan. They can also gain the know-how to thrive, improve, develop and innovate in such a space. ‘Steeling the Show’ will be launched in June 2022 and will begin streaming in July 2022 over a 10-week period. Our goal is to attract more viewers with each episode and eventually be able to continue with a second season in 2023 with more fun and educational content.


Panel 2: Moving Forward in the New Normal

“Practicing Collectivity Individually in Virtual Steelpan Performances”

Dr. Charissa Granger (Trinidad and Tobago)

ABSTRACT: Coming upon a steelband rehearsing, a chance encounter to slow down, stand, dance, and listen; an offered moment to feel, and create another world to occupy together. Through multiple rehearsals, repetitions and changes, as performers we build a world together – sonically – no words. Performing together creates an environment, an air within which to spend time together. To imbibe the atmosphere with pan sound, its vibration and resonance sustains livability. Technologically informed responses in steelpan performance are intensified by the global pandemic and international measures taken to curb its havoc. These responses included the making and sharing of virtual performances in efforts to connect and gather otherwise. Virtual performances are generative, taking up an aesthetic translation: How to still do things and practice relationally in and with love from a distance in a virtual realm? To play alone but still together, to practice community, keeping and creating the communal together. What proceeds from making and practicing steelpan collectivity individually in the virtual realm? McKittrick (2021) teaches that concepts orient ideas toward political praxis and a world building and as such they ask us to attend to their materiality. The virtual realm of steelpan culture in the Caribbean diaspora requires a theory of connection and collectivity in the face of separation. This essay examines how to connect ideas to material realities in order to make sense of them and to think about the theoretical and its working in the virtual realm of steelpan.


“Steelpan Care and Maintenance”

Joshema Mcintosh (Trinidad and Tobago)

ABSTRACT: I will share simple, inexpensive tips and best practices on caring for and maintaining chromed and raw steelpans. Steelpan presentation and appearance are just as important as steelpan sound quality. We often associate a good appearance with quality. As such, up-keeping chromed and raw steelpans will command respect for the instrument. The presentation seeks to teach steelpan owners how to care for the instrument in order to increase its life and encourage a more consistent and concerted effort with regard to maintaining the instrument.


“Steelpan Life During COVID: How Yoichi Izawa Adapted to the New Normal”

Yuko Asada (United States)

ABSTRACT: Yoichi Izawa is one of the leading steelpan performers, leaders, and composers/arrangers in Japan today. In 2020, COVID started to affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people all over the world. It devastated the entertainment industry and changed the way steelpannists function. I will be discussing Izawa’s involvement in pan before the pandemic, and the creative ideas that he implemented when the pandemic struck.

“Tomorrow’s Workforce: What Students Need to be More Successful in the Music Business”

Kristen Murrell (Trinidad and Tobago)

ABSTRACT: How can we effectively train student professionals for more fulfilling careers in and with steelpan? Firstly, by assembling advisory teams made up of faculty, alumni, and practicing professionals. Because the ‘pan’ industry is still in its early stages, it is critical to design functional strategies that are best suited to the success of people and small interest specialized groups. Students spend more time with their professors than with any other professional. It is critical to incorporate career counseling into courses that employ long-term entrepreneurship or practical projects that improve students’ career-ready or “soft” abilities.

Four ways towards preparing learners for professions in music/pan:

  • Encourage networking
  • Be future-focused by making education relevant to future employment markets
  • Including STEM courses in the curriculum, for example
  • Emphasis on digital/technological inclusion.
  • As a music business specialist and steelpan performer, I will examine the influence of this process or lack thereof, and its relevance to university studies, as well as its real-world impact, in this session.


    Featured Performance

    Keishaun Julien (Trinidad and Tobago)

    BIO: Keishaun Julien is known for his continuous contribution to the digital steelpan space through his social media platforms. Hailing from the island of Tobago, Keishaun has taken his talent worldwide as he has performed in over ten countries such as Belgium, Canada, France, Mexico, Japan, and the United States, to name a few. Keishaun’s first encounter with the instrument was at 4 1⁄2 years old; however, his love for the steelpan was ignited shortly after his first panorama with Our Boys Steel Orchestra at the age of ten. His mentor Leeandro Noray was very instrumental in his transition into a soloist. Keishaun Julien entered various solo competitions in Trinidad and Tobago such as National Junior Steelband Music Festival, Baker’s Scouting for Talent, and Tobago Channel 5 Children’s Showcase to name a few. As he became more popular, he started performing regularly at various events and functions throughout Trinidad and Tobago. He was also able to strategically position himself in the digital space very early through his YouTube channel, which is one of the largest in the steelpan community with over 17,000 subscribers. As a University of the West Indies graduate with a BA in Musical Arts, Keishaun Julien currently arranges for Alpha Pan Pioneers and offers private lessons to an international student-
    base online. He is also the winner of the 2021 PanoGrama competition. Some of Keishaun’s musical influences within the steelpan fraternity include Duvone Stewart, Ken “Professor” Philmore, Liam Teague, and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe.


    Featured Speaker

    Leon “Smooth” Edwards (Trinidad and Tobago)

    BIO: Leon Edwards is a Senior Instructor at The Academy for the Performing Arts at The University of Trinidad and Tobago. He is also the longtime Panorama arranger for Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra and was instrumental in their driving success by leading the band to eight (8) national, and one (1) international Panorama victory. These successes were the platform that activated his nomination and ultimate induction into the Sunshine Awards Hall of Fame. While living in the United States of America, Mr. Edwards lectured extensively on the value of the Pan as a first-world musical instrument. Further to this, he worked with young people in the Washington Maryland area, and Austin Texas providing young men and women with an introduction to Pan as an educational musical instrument. Leon was educated at Queen’s Royal College, Port of Spain Trinidad; Santa Fe Community College, Gainesville Florida in music; as well as the School of Accounting and Management where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.


    Panel 3: Pan and its Unique Identity

    “Junior Panorama: Competition and Nation Building in Youth-Centered Spaces”

    Stephanie Espie (United States)

    ABSTRACT: Modelled after the famous Panorama steelband competition, the Junior Panorama competition is held annually during Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival season. While historically notably smaller than its senior counterpart, Junior Panorama has grown substantially over the past twenty years with as many as 66 bands competing in the most recent 2020 competition. Aimed at the youth population of Trinidad and Tobago, Junior Panorama is divided into three categories for competing ensembles – primary schools, secondary schools, and under 21 non-school ensembles. While there are notable differences across these three categories, they all are structured utilizing the same framework developed for the Panorama competition. In this paper I extend the argument that Panorama is a site of performed Trinidadian nationalism (Dudley 2008) by asserting that Junior Panorama is a space in which nationalistic ideals are modeled, debated, and embodied. Accepting that youth competitions “lay at the nexus of the complex web of competing political forces” (Downing 2019, 8), I analyze a series of national policy proposals over the past 20 years in addition to ethnographic interviews with both youth and adult participants. I balance these viewpoints with theoretical understandings of competition (McCormick 2015, Coe 2005, Douglas 2003) to argue that the act of competition is explicitly used as a tool for nation building in these youth-centered spaces. This research on youth musical practices will expand the growing research on Trinidadian nationalism and provide new perspectives to sociocultural discussions within Trinidad.


    “The Value of Steelpan in Music Therapy”

    Jean Raabe (United States)

    ABSTRACT: As a graduate of the music therapy program at Western Michigan University, I have worked mainly with at-risk youth, which provided my primary motivator for learning to play steelpan well enough to use with clients. I feel honored to have played steelpan with Phase II PanGroove since 1995, receiving the gift of learning to play from band members. While teaching an annual introductory music therapy course at The University of the West Indies, I have shared my beliefs about steelpan’s potential within music therapy. When working in the USA, I’ve been awarded over 20 grants to share steelpans in Michigan schools, at no cost to schools, which has been successful because of using music therapy practices and principals to design the programs. A summer performing group emerged from the initial grant, making it possible for the children to play for nursing homes, adult foster care homes, and community events.


    “Breaking Away From the Stigmas, Breaking Down the Barriers”

    Jason Sivert (United States)

    A. Non-steel pan players and what they associate with the sound of the steel pan.
    –Sounds of the “islands” or being on a cruise ship
    –“They think of songs like Margaritaville or Under the Sea, which might leave a bad taste in our mouths as steel pan players and educators, but it’s honestly not the average person’s fault.”
    –We need to help expose our listeners to more than just the “money-makers”

    B. We can’t use the limitations of the steel pans as an excuse not to explore different styles, and even more importantly, different sound mediums outside of just the steel band.
    –“I have actually noticed that some classical musicians have somewhat stigmatized the instruments…”
    –Steel pan players are musicians too.

    C. My personal experiences and how I’ve been tackling the challenges of both gaining respect for the steel pan as well as exposing those musicians, and even non-musicians, to the steel pan
    –“For the past couple of years, I have been composing pieces of music for mixed ensembles to help integrate steel pan into the classical and contemporary music scenes.”
    –“I have also given a full recital of just steel pan repertoire to help expose more people to the other prolific composers and players of these instruments.”

    D. Segment to share some recordings and performances of my pieces for steel pan and mixed ensembles

    Conclusion: “It’s my goal to (hopefully) foster more of an open mind towards where the instrument can fit in, and I want to encourage other composers to explore different timbres that have never been heard before. This is a big part of the future of the steel pan in my eyes.”


    “Pan’s Own Voice: The Musical Potential of Steelpan Structure”

    Adam Walters (United Kingdom)

    ABSTRACT: Since 2011, I have composed pieces of music whose melodic and harmonic elements are derived from the physical structure of the steelpan. The idea behind deriving musical material from the physical structure of Trinidad’s national instrument is to justify the music as being rooted in something Trinidadian. I select patterns for the harmonic possibilities I see in them, even though the musical effect of a pattern may well be unlike any recognisably stylistic trait in Trinidadian musics. The technique is therefore one of abstraction, of making musical choices based on the extra-musical factor of an instrument’s physical design. In this presentation I discuss the potential of this approach through the examples of my work. It is hoped that the presentation may be of interest to composers for steelpan who may wish to explore similar techniques of abstraction in their own work.


    Panel 4: The Archiving and Documenting of Pan

    “Research Guidance for the Pan Industry: An Introduction”

    Peter Poon Chong (Trinidad and Tobago)

    ABSTRACT: An introductory research guide is presented showing access to information for continual improvement in the pan industry. The Google Scholar database was used to collect the published documents and the presentation provided steps to convert the data collected into a solution. The origin of the pan came from the innovative works of our predecessors outside of the information age that we presently experience. Today’s technology offers many opportunities to be removed from a state of continuous improvement. The research guide encourages the pan industry to become better at continual improvement reducing the events of the problems finding the industry. An industry is in a better state when the problems are acknowledged before the negative effects. It is best when these effects are avoided with a solution. The intent provides insight into the manufacturing aspect of decision making for the pan industry.


    “Photography of Panorama: Considerations and Recommendations”

    Maria Nunes and Andrea De Silva (Trinidad and Tobago)

    ABSTRACT: Photography of Panorama plays a very important role in documenting and promoting this vital national festival. The need for a well thought out media plan, based on input from all the various stakeholders, is addressed in this presentation.


    Panel 5: New Music for Solo Steelpan

    “Panel Discussion: “The Collaborative Commissioning Process”

    Louis Raymond-Kolker, Dr. Oliver Molina and Lauren Molloy (United States)

    ABSTRACT: In music programs across the United States, steelpans and steelbands are often grouped as part of or adjacent to the percussion area. As a result, many percussionists approach steelpan in the same way that one might approach marimba, snare drum, or timpani, preparing solo repertoire for recitals in addition to playing in their steelband. However, there is not nearly as much notated solo repertoire for steelpan as there is for other major percussion instruments. In addition, many composers in the United States lack the necessary information and motivation to write for the steelpan. As a result, pannists in the United States, especially those in university percussion settings, work directly with composers to collaboratively create new music for solo steelpan. This panel will include three percussionists/pannists who will discuss the details of that collaborative process, including the initial contact with the composer and the mechanics of commissioning them, the process of workshopping the composition, and distributing the work to ensure that it can benefit the greater pan community as well as the composer. Each panelist will share a recording of a solo work that they commissioned: “Internal Dialogue” by Alexis C. Lamb, “Mercury Silver” by Marc Mellits, and “Cycles” by Yael Kane.


    Panel 6: Issues and Resolutions for Publishing Works

    Panel Discussion: “Publishing in the New Era”

    Josh Quillen (United States) and Dr. Mia Gormandy-Benjamin (Trinidad and Tobago).


    Panel 7: Pan Education in the New Age

    “Steelpan Education and Performance: 2020 and Beyond!”

    Barry Mannette (Trinidad and Tobago)

    ABSTRACT: The covid 19 pandemic threw the world into panic and disarray which affected every aspect of our regular lives, including music education and performance. Steelpan tuition was not spared, and all steel orchestras and educators had to cease operations while they grappled with the uncertainty of the global outbreak. Fortunately, the pandemic forced the development of new technologies as well as the advancement of existing technical knowledge which has not just enabled a resumption of steelpan education but has transformed the strategies and methods used to teach the instrument. Additionally, through technology, performers were able to share their talents with a much wider audience, locally and internationally. As the world slowly gets back to the pre-pandemic “normal”, virtual steelpan education and performances will remain an integral part of the steelpan landscape.


    “Supporting Pannists with Digital Technology: A Cycle of Fifths Mobile App”

    Stanley West (Trinidad and Tobago)

    ABSTRACT: This paper proposes the use of mobile phones / tablets to host an App of a dynamic graphic library of scales, modes and chords based on the Circle of = Fifths using the 4ths and 5ths tenor pan icon. A demo preview of the (Android / iOS) App will be presented giving the outline framework and proposed options. Input from music educators, musicians, pannist et al. is being requested for advice on usefulness and / or recommended features for such an App. Steelpan sound samples can be added as an upgrade.


    “Using Social Media for Steelpan Education”

    Sachelle Thomas (Trinidad and Tobago)

    ABSTRACT: This presentation is about using social media to teach steelpan education. With many young people spending hours on social media platforms such as Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook,Ttwitter etc, they are exposed daily to a ton of information. Also, through filtering tools such as hashtags they can choose to see what they like and curate their ideal social media “explore pages.” Lots of people are interested in the steelpan but sometimes may not even know the name of it. Through continuous posting of even short clips, we can highlight important information surrounding the steelpan through short clips and those interested can access further information on other platforms.