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Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steel Band’s Got Soul

Panist Andre White shines

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

DeKalb, Illinois, USA -  Well, well, well - NIU’s got soul.

NIU Steel Band Concert for Fall 2013
NIU Steel Band

Funking up a storm like a page out of the Ohio Players “Fire” days -  indeed, NIU Steel Band dropped a November surprise. In what has to be one of the more varied and entertaining NIU Steel Band concerts, the orchestra showcased all aspects of the individual and group’s talents and personalities. From Chick Corea’s “Spain” to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” NIU Steel Band under the directorship of Liam Teague and Clifford Alexis had it going on.

So what was new and different? First off, a Rock guitarist and a brass section participated in some numbers in the first half of the program - immediately presenting the world with tremendous musical possibilities when you have a collaboration of a steel orchestra with conventional musical instruments. The performances pleasantly presented more voices and colors in a way not commonly heard or digested, to the audience.  In addition, it opened both their minds and those of the students to future artistic possibilities.

The viewing public got to see and meet the human side of NIU Steel as members interacted with those present. In the piece "Fiddle Faddle" -  Liam, Khan Cordice, Yuki Nakano, Josanne Francis, Gerald Williams and the engine room engaged the audience in theatrics, humor, musical call-and-response and comedic musical banter. Indeed, the members of the band are well-grounded in the art of musical entertainment as they have clearly expanded their abilities with engaging personalities. They are becoming what the entertainment industry use to traditionally call ‘triple threats’ - their enormous talents allow them to entertain, relate, compose, act and perform.

The guest artist was none other than Andre White. The immensely talented panist, composer and steel orchestra arranger is no stranger to the When Steel Talks (WST) audience as WST has keenly followed his musical development from child to young man for well over a decade. Andre is a fascinating talent that is growing and developing in real-time in front of our very eyes. There are no boundaries for Andre; moreover, he is writing his own script and realizing his potential. The name Andre White will continue to reverberate both within and outside of the steelpan music community as he gave the NIU community a small sample of his musical ability with a few jazz pieces.

This concert was additionally special to WST, as another creative and immeasurable talent who so impressed WST as a youth when we met him in Antigua almost a decade ago - was also spotlighted.  Khan Cordice again showed why he is one of the most gifted steelpan music prodigies out of the Caribbean.

And not to be left out of the mix, the NIU Steel Band sounded great.  The only note of concern was the streamed audio was not as even as it has been in the past. There were some volume fluctuations and balance issues. And the sight of steelpan instruments being “miked” from the underbelly of the pan always makes us cringe when listening to solos. 

Great show, great performances overall, though.

NIU Steel Band
Scott McConnell
Yuki Nakano
Yuko Asada
Sam Doran
Abby Sapadin
Emily Lanxner 
*Liam Teague
Double Tenors 
Josanne Francis
Khan Cordice
Deneisha Goolcharan
Double Seconds
Christina Guerrero
Mike Schwebke
Gerald Williams 
Zane Cupec
Todd Jelinek
Fuli Guo
Katie Finlon
Andrew Dewar
Nicole Chopp 
Alexis Lamb 
Rocco Zaccagnini
Abby Rehard
Mason Wheaton
Benjamin Pomeroy
Engine Room (Percussion)
Jonny Gifford -- drums
Carl Wesa 
*Cliff Alexis

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