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NYU Steel Comes Full Circle - The Dream, the Vision, the Reality

When Things Come Together - NYU Steel, A Success Story

Another When Steel Talks Concert Review

Kendall Williams (left), with Professor Jonathan Haas
Kendall Williams (left), with Professor Jonathan Haas after the NYU Steel Spring concert

New York, New York - He still waves to you from afar, still seeks you out and greets you with a warm smile and sincere handshake. And still remains quietly in the background supporting and admiring his  creation and the considerable progress of the young people like a proud parent. Yes, Professor Jonathan Haas, department chairman at the prestigious Percussion Studies program at NYU Steinhardt has a lot to be proud of. NYU Steel is a musical reality that has indeed come full circle.

NYU Steel
NYU Steel

It was Haas’ dream, his vision - and now it is the magnificent reality of many. And a positive impact on so many lives.

Professor Haas’s is the ‘difference-maker’ between NYU Steel and some of the other programs WST (When Steel Talks) has visited. Himself a much-accomplished professional musician, Haas has been there, seen it and done it. It’s is not about him. It’s all about the learning experience, environment and professionalism for the students.

And then of course there is Josh Quillen, the skilled director and field general. It is Josh who took Professor Haas’s vision to heart and brought it to life and resounding success. Josh is an outstanding musician in his own right, and superb student of the steelpan music art form and calypso music genre.  NYU Steel has grown leaps and bounds in the years since its inception and maiden voyage in 2007.

There are very few if any musical institutions that boast a diverse and varied repertoire such as NYU Steel - from the works of Philip Glass to those of calypso legend The Roaring Lion.

Director Josh Quillen (at right) performs with NYU Steel; Kendall Williams is next to Josh
Director Josh Quillen (at right) performs with NYU Steel; Kendall Williams is next to Josh

Before the beginning of this year’s NYU Steel Spring Concert Josh Quillen gave the customary greetings to the audience, but this time he included an interesting story.  It was one WST had not heard before in the years we’ve been covering the activities of the ensemble. Back in 2002, Josh was in Trinidad to experience the annual Panorama competition as a performing member of Phase II Pan Groove.

As he labored through the process of learning the tune over the customary weeks of practice, he noticed and marveled at a youth who came into the yard and learned the whole tune, in what appeared to Josh, a single day, by rote. That youth’s name was Kendall Williams.  It is the same Kendall Williams eleven years later, who is now a graduating student at NYU and member of NYU Steel. In fact Kendall will be performing his graduate recital this coming weekend.  In a further ironic twist, or things coming together, Kendall would reveal to us at the Spring concert, that it was a WST article on NYU Steel that pointed him in the direction of New York University for his higher education. He entered NYU in the Fall of 2010, and now graduates with his Masters of Music in Theory & Composition.

NYU Steel
NYU Steel

And then there is also Akini Gill who is a matriculating student at NYU and an NYU Steel member, from Trinidad & Tobago, and who once only dreamed of attending NYU while reading and keeping up with the activities of NYU Steel via WST articles, while still back in Trinidad.

In any regard, Josh was telling Kendall’s story because there was a group of PS 161 elementary students from the Brooklyn community, who were guest performers on this night before NYU Steel took the stage. He wanted them to understand that they were on the right path as scholars and performers in their steel orchestras, that they too could someday also be students at NYU.

NYU Steel on stage
NYU Steel on stage

The community outreach from and involvement with NYU Steel has been outstanding. Last year New York champions Sonatas Steel Orchestra was invited and performed along with NYU Steel at the PAS (Percussive Arts Society) weekend.

The show

PS 161 Steel Orchestra performs Mr. Fete

The PS 161 Steel Orchestra from Brooklyn- with Michelle Williams and Rico Hunte, directors - performed two numbers under the guidance of Williams conducting the youth steel orchestra. The experience is one that will resound with these youth for their whole life. And for many it will be one of the critical experiences that will propel them forward. The young people’s performance was very well received by the audience.

As we explained in our previous articles on NYU Steel, the prestigious Percussion Studies program at NYU Steinhardt is unique, and may certainly boast at being the only such degree program where learning to play the steelpan instrument is mandatory for all its students regardless of their focus area and instrument of choice in percussion. The NYU program offers B.M., M.M., and Ph.D. in music performance.

As always every aspect of the group’s concerts is managed with professionalism.

NYU Steel is uniquely positioned to become one of the best steel orchestras in North America. Brooklyn is the home to some of the largest and best steel orchestras outside Trinidad and Tobago, so the potential for an even greater learning experience for the NYU students is there.

NYU Steel on stage, musical joy evident
NYU Steel on stage, musical joy evident

NYU Steel continues to embrace a wide and varied repertoire that demonstrates the unlimited boundaries of the steelpan instrument family. This year’s program was very different from the 2012 concert set, featuring the compositions of steelpan music greats such as Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Andy Narell and Liam Teague to name a few. NYU Steel are a joy to watch and listen to. They are enthusiastic, engaged and talented. Their own obvious enjoyment in performing in the steel orchestra is infectious and had a stimulating effect on the audience. What could be better than majoring in percussion at NYU, and in the Big Apple?

NYU Steel on stage, musical joy evident
NYU Steel members after the 2013 Spring concert


About NYU Steel

NYU Steel is a significant performance ensemble within the NYU Steinhardt Percussion Program, where Professor Jonathan Haas serves as Director. Under the direction of Joshua Quillen, NYU Steel is dedicated to exploring the art of steel pans to the fullest, performing rare compositions and arrangements ranging in scope from Philip Glass and Jason Trueting, to David Rudder and Lord Kitchener from Trinidad and Tobago, where the art form was invented. The ensemble presents several unique performances each year, collaborating with composers globally, while enriching the steel drum repertoire. Additional NYU Steel productions include a CD of the exclusive recording of Philip Glass’ Piano Etudes, arranged by Joshua Quillen, which was released by Orange Mountain Music in May 2011, as well as promotional and tribute performances for Glass’ 75th birthday.  

NYU Steel emphasizes an artistically and culturally diverse array of performance styles that break with traditional boundaries surrounding the esoteric genre of steel pan music.  NYU Steel seeks to create a bond between artist and audience that warrants an environment of creativity and community. With a hunger for innovation and desire to explore all the possibilities of steel pan music, NYU Steel has created the most unique ensemble of its kind, drawing from the rich cultural sounds of the Caribbean while incorporating the works of prominent composers such as Philip Glass in order to gain the instrument prominence on the world stage.

As part of a global initiative instituted in collaboration with New York University, NYU Steel is constantly pursuing ways to reach audiences in an international scope, driving to cultivate a niche in the world stage. At the same time, NYU Steel continues to nurture relationships with the local community, intent on becoming leaders in education, performance, and creativity.

Contact -
Jonathan Haas:
Sean Statser:

NYU Steel Members
Marc Akiyama, Greg Auffredou, Jamiah Braithwaite, Andrew Broadwater, Ben Calvert, Doug Chew, Crystal Chu, Megan Emmanuel, Abby Fisher, Russell Fisher, Shaun Gallant, Akini Gill, Rob Guilford, Spencer Hale, Adam Holmes, Luis Jacome, Diana Lambert, Matthew Lau, Yale Litwin, Melody Loveless, Brett Lupi, Brandon Nestor, Matthew Overbay, Luis Carime Santa Coloma, Kendall Williams, Karina Yau
NYU Steel members after the 2013 Spring concert
NYU Steel members after the 2013 Spring concert
PS 161 Members
Jada Barrow, Nyla Beaton, Denesha Bingham, Tristan Charles, Cameron Felix, Gloria Figaro, Josannie Graham, Anaya Greene, Ameya Jones, Deavonte Kimble, Victoria Legister, Isaiah McIntyre, Rachel Powell, Sarah Rodriguez, Traevon Ruddock, Junya Santiago, Alisa Sewell, Denisha Taylor, Jada Tyson
PS 161 performs at the NYU Steel 2013 Spring concert
PS 161 performs at the NYU Steel 2013 Spring concert


PS 161 Steel Orchestra
One Love   Bob Marley

Mr. Fete   Machel Montano
NYU Steel
Dis Feelin’ Nice

  Len “Boogsie” Sharpe

Joy/Power   Clifford Alexis

Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

  R. Vaughn Williams
Song of Peace   “The Roaring Lion”/arr. Josh Quillen

Rink: a Suite for Steel Pans (Josh Quillen, Soloist)
Mvt 1: Lurch
Mvt 2: Fosclachtha
Mvt 3: Spin

  Dan Trueman
Ben Lion   3 Canal and Andre Tanker/arr. Dudack/Sharpe

My Dulahin   Barnet “Preacher” Henry/arr. Dudack

Trapeze   Andy Narell

  Liam Teague

It’s Showtime   Edwin Pouchet/arr. Kendall Williams

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