Michelle Huggins-Watts is a Music Teacher and Dean of Academic Studies and Discipline at Trinity College in Trinidad. She also serves as a music examiner for the Caribbean Examinations Council O' level exams. She holds a First Class Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Arts and she is currently reading for the Master of Philosophy in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
Michelle has written and presented academic papers on the social and cultural aspects of the steelband art form as well as conducted pan workshops at various academic institutions which include Springfield College in Tampa, Florida and Haydon Bridge High School in England. She recently concluded a Panorama Arranging workshop hosted by the Pan In Schools Coordinating Council.
JOURNEY IN PAN
Her first instrument was the piano which she began playing at the age of five. However, her journey into the steelpan arena began at the age of 14 as a Fourth Form student at the St. Francois Girls’ College where she learned to play the tenor pan. There, she ascended to captaincy and having graduated from Sixth Form, she became a member of the parent band, T&TEC Power Stars. She also performed with Scrunters Pan Groove, Casablanca, and Phase II Pan Groove where she was made captain.
Michelle’s musical experiences also include adjudication at the National Song Festival, Junior Panorama, Junior Steelband Music Festival, National Panorama - Single Pan category. She has also performed at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, the Westminster Abbey, Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, with other performances in Canada, France, Holland, Scotland, Wales, Martinique and Barbados.
As an arranger, Michelle’s first opportunity came in 1987 with the St. Francois Girls Steel Orchestra, when the College’s pan tutor, Mr. McDonald Redhead, invited her to arrange the Tune of Choice for the Schools’ Steelband Music Festival. She subsequently arranged stage side music for T&TEC Power Stars and did her first Panorama arrangements for them in 1994 and 1995. In 1996 she began to arrange for the Junior Panorama Competition and in 1998 she won her first arranging title with WoodTrin Steel Orchestra.
Michelle was then approached in 2002 by Valley Harps to arrange the music and conduct the band for the Pan Is Beautiful Steelband Music Festival. Having liked her arrangement of the calypso for that competition, she was asked to arrange for the upcoming Panorama competition of 2003. The band qualified for the Panorama Finals for the first time in its history, in 2004, and continued to be in the top five consistently. Michelle had also arranged for La Creole Pan Groove and Carib Woodbrook Playboyz in the single Pan category with both bands being finalists in the competition.
Having been knocking on the door of victory for the past few years with Michelle as arranger, Valley Harps finally won the Medium Band title in 2011 and Michelle became the first female arranger to win a Panorama competition.