The Thwaites Are Here In the Spotlight

A When Steel Talks Special

The Thwaites Brothers

New York, USA What these three brothers young men have in common is not only a love for music, but that their introduction to music was via the steelpan. All three visited the studios of When Steel Talks to chat about their successes and their various musical paths.

Sheldon, Sean and Sherwin also have an enviable educational record at one of the better known musical institutions in the United States - the two elder brothers, Sean and Sheldon attended and graduated together from the prestigious Berkelee College of Music, while Sheldon, the youngest sibling, is already attending courses at the institution and will be starting his college year at Berkelee in 2006.

The Thwaites
From left to right: Sherwin, Sean and Sheldon Thwaites

Their father was a member of Trinidad and Tobago's famed Pan Am North Stars Steel Orchestra. With such a strong influence in pan, the brothers reminisced fondly how they began 'playing pan', not on actual steelpan instruments, but by tapping out rhythms and patterns on their couch, with pencils serving as pan sticks.

Each one of these talented young men are well known in the music world, and of course in the area of, but not restricted to, the steelpan. Sherwin, the eldest, currently arranges for DC Pan Jammers, and is also a producer. He is also one of the original members of the Basement Recordings musical project, which has brought the likes of Khuent Rose, Sheldon Elcock, Freddy Harris III, Kareem Thomspon and Iman Pascall together. His initial commitment to this initiative was challenged by his own schedule, but his talent had been recognized and hailed as being one of the best and able to be included in the Basement Recordings' initiative.

Sean, the middle sibling, plays a mean double seconds and also leads his own steeldrum ensemble in New Jersey called Pan United - He takes the music of the steelpan to Bates College in Maine, and as a Professor, will be heading the steeldrum initiative at the institution.

Sheldon's passion is drumming, but he also maintains his love and skills on the steelpan. This year, for the 2005 New York panorama, he played double seconds for the current, and five-time New York panorama champion, Pantonic Steel Orchestra. He has also periodically enjoyed the responsibility of dexterously holding down drumming responsibilities for the band occasionally during the band's practice sessions as they prepared for the annual competition. The young percussionist is aggressively assured and deadly serious about what he has to do, and what the future holds for him.

In fact, one might agree with him that 'fate' was with him when he recently came into contact with Lauryn Hill while at the Virgin record store in Berklee.  Ms. Hill was interested in his work, and subsequently Sheldon, and his brothers have vibed and shared some studio time with this internationally and critically acclaimed, Grammy award winner.

But whatever their schedules, this family of brothers stays, and plays together. Even though they all play pan, it is Sean who takes up the reins in that area when the Thwaites gig. Sheldon is on drums, with Sherwin on piano, where his right hand does keyboard duty, and as he puts it - his left hand "plays a pretty good bass [line]." "So what people get when we perform, is kind of a four piece band, but with three people.

In fact, what has contributed in part to Sherwin's additional forage into producing, is that when the brothers play out, people find that they "are really good" but that their appearances did not necessarily generate more work; and desire for their performances peaked during summer, but waned in other months. The eldest Thwaites has decided to be responsible for at least part of the brothers'' musical and professional destiny - and to produce their own material, and dictate their own terms. Sherwin is adamant that wherever he goes, the steelpan will be there.

With their talent, daring, professionalism and dedication, even the sky does not appear to be a limit for these musicians.

C. Phillips, Basement Press Corp.

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