Akua Leith is a Fulbright Fellow who graduated from the the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Arts, as well as, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) with a Masters of Music in Conducting with an emphasis on Steelpan Performance. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, he performed with the National Steel Symphony Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago as a full-time Musician. He was appointed to the position of Artistic Director/Conductor of the Orchestra in 2016.
Mr. Leith started playing the steelpan at the age of twelve when he entered South East Port of Spain Secondary School. To complement his natural playing abilities, he later attended classes in music theory at the Trinity All Generation School of the Arts (TAGS) in Port of Spain. Two years after joining TAGS as a student, he was selected to be a Steelpan Tutor and Arranger at the school. He was eventually promoted to the positions of Vice Principal of Performance as well as Music Director of the TAGS Prodigies ensemble.
As a performer, Mr. Leith has toured extensively while promoting the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. He has participated in tours throughout Europe, Asia, North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. While pursuing graduate studies, he performed with the NIU World Steelband, under the direction of Liam Teague and steelpan pioneer Clifford Alexis. He was also afforded the opportunity to conduct the NIU Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Ronnie Wooten and co-direct the University Steelband at NIU.
Mr. Leith is committed to the promotion of the steelpan instrument and the demonstration of its versatility with all genres of music. He has chosen to contribute to this promotion through conducting, performing, composing, creating arrangements and educating others. He has had the opportunity to work with students of all ages, as well as, varying socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. His teaching experience in Trinidad and Tobago includes being a Part-Time Lecturer at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as, a Steelpan Tutor at TAGS, Holistic Music School, Cascade Servol Life Centre, the Music Schools in the Panyard initiative and the City Angels music programme. While in the United States of America, he taught, conducted workshops and created arrangements for several groups, including, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra Steel Orchestra (CYSO Steel Orchestra), Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFÉ), based in Washington DC, Naperville High School in Illinois, and Birch Creek Music Performance Center, Wisconsin.
Some of Mr. Leith’s other accomplishments include successfully leading various ensembles into competitions. Groups such as TAGS, Chord Masters Steel Orchestra (Single pan category), and Pan-Demonium Steel Orchestra have all emerged as winners or finalists under his direction. At the 2010 Trinidad and Tobago Biennial Music Festival competition championship, he led TAGS to capture the first places in both the Steel Ensemble category and the Chamber Steelpan Orchestra category. Recently, Mr. Leith undertook the role of Music Director for Errol Hill’s widely acclaimed “Man Better Man” produced by The National Theatre Arts Company in conjunction with UTT’s Academy for the Performing Arts.