Men in Steel

Meet Aviel Scanterbury - Performing Artist, Educator, Arranger and Panist

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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“My vision is simply for the steelpan to be played in every country in the world and to be viewed as a popular instrument. Way too many persons still don’t know about the instrument and its history even in Trinidad and Tobago.” –– Aviel Scanterbury

It is undeniably clear that for a while now Aviel Scanterbury is part of that next generation of steelpan music practitioners who will guide the art form to new frontiers and heights. In a When Steel Talks exclusive - this child prodigy, now  educator, arranger and panist shares his vision and passion for Pan.

WST - “Tell us a little bit about Aviel Scanterbury?”

Aviel Scanterbury
Aviel Scanterbury

Aviel S. - “Aviel is a talented steelpan musician tasked with spreading the gospel of steelpan all over the world through its many mediums; performance, arranging and composition.”

WST - “When and how did you first become associated with the steelpan instrument?”

Aviel S. - “The first encounter with the instrument that I could remember was when Gary Straker’s Pan School played at my church one Sunday and I was probably around 3-4 years old. I thought it was the best sound ever but I never told my parents anything for some reason, but my dad asked me after the service if I wanted to learn to play the steelpan and I just said “Yes” and I’ve been playing ever since.”

WST - “Have you had the support of family and friends, initially, and through the years re: your love for the art form?

Aviel S. - “I’ve always had the support of my parents and wider family,  even to this day. Plus my dad always would play albums of diverse genres so I was always exposed to not just pan but music on a whole. I even remember having a phase in my life where all I wanted to do was play drums so much so that I would go as far as to create a drum set from pots and pans.”

Aviel Scanterbury on tenor pan (second from left)
Aviel Scanterbury on tenor pan (second from left)

WST - “You are an accomplished panist, instructor, artist and arranger. Is there preference among these disciplines for you? Which role do you like best?”

Aviel S. - “The sense of accomplishment and joy you get from creating and seeing your name as an arranger or composer is so rewarding, but overall the one constant in my life has always been performing whether it’s my music or someone else’s. I think it’s something about people getting to hear the real you and not an interpretation.”

WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument and music going?”

Aviel S. - “I think my passion comes partly from the creative side of me and also a love and appreciation for the history of the instrument.”

WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately, what would that be?”

Aviel S. - “I think I would increase the amount of business sense the overall steelband community has in Trinidad and Tobago. That would make the instrument a lot more profitable and would financially benefit the steelpan musician in a manner that doesn’t just feel like a pittance.”

WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Aviel S. - “I am most proud when I can influence someone to be a better player or arranger.”

WST - “What disappoints you the most in the steelband movement?”

Aviel S. - “I am really disappointed that steelbands still can’t run themselves due to lack of funds. The reason is mostly due to the money pit that is Panorama. It costs way too much for the average band to go to Panorama to the point where bands are mostly always in debt.”

  Are You Kidding Me?  (feat. Aviel Scanterbury and Marty Risemberg)

WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young panists all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Aviel S. - “My advice is for all young players to start playing piano as well. It is something I wish I did earlier and it’s something I’m now finding myself learning to do. Playing piano would help with your overall understanding of harmony and would make arranging and composing a lot easier.”

WST - “You play the pan. Are there any other instruments you play?”

Aviel S. - “I can hold it down on a drum set and percussion.”

WST - “Do you have a favorite/preferred “voice” of pan to play? Tenor, Quads, etc.?”

Aviel S. - “My main instrument is the Low tenor but I can play all the instruments in the steelpan family.”

WST - “Who, and what are your musical influences?”

Aviel S. - “I’m heavily influenced by jazz as that’s my background. I also love calypso and soca and other Caribbean rhythms. I also owe a lot of my love for pan and jazz to persons like Gary Starker, Anthony Adams, Sean Lewis, Victor Provost, and the list can go on and on.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Aviel S. - “Panorama to me is objectively one of a few music festivals in the world that pushes an absurd amount of organic, acoustic energy.”

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Aviel S. - “I see it as both. It’s a blessing because it’s ours to share with the world and it’s such a unique and amazing concept. It’s a curse because financially it has never really ever benefited the pan man/woman.”

WST - “Describe your academic experience at George Mason University (GMU)?”

Aviel S. - “That experience was a life-changing one and sort of a dream come true because I always wanted to study abroad. Not only did that happen but I also got to study with [someone] who is arguably the best pan player in the world.  Anyone who has dreams of playing jazz on steelpan - I highly recommend GMU as a really good option.”

WST - “For the first time in the history of the Medium band competition, the finals were held in the sister isle of Tobago. What are your thoughts on this?”

Aviel S. - “I can’t complain really. I participated and from the look of things it was a very well put together event. Of course there were hiccups and kinks that should be rectified for next year but overall I am pleased.”

WST - “What do you think about the overall changes implemented into Panorama 2020?”

Aviel S. - “I think financially the Panorama always suffered when it came to numbers in attendance but seeing that every category was given its own stage for the finals, then each category at least in theory, would have been more profitable.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge the steelband music art form faces in Trinidad & Tobago today, in your opinion?”

Aviel S. - “Well besides the fact that we can’t practice due to the pandemic, I honestly think the greatest challenge is getting enough gigs that would pay bands enough for it to be profitable so bands can run themselves and be comfortable.”

WST - “You have traveled around the world with pan as your focus. What have you learnt from these experiences?”

Aviel S. - “The biggest thing I took away from my experiences is the importance of being on time, prepared and trustworthy.”

WST - “What is your vision for the steelpan instrument?”

Aviel S. - “My vision is simply for the steelpan to be played in every country in the world and to be viewed as a popular instrument. Way too many persons still don’t know about the instrument and its history even in Trinidad and Tobago.”

WST - “The steelband music art form is obviously a major part of your life. What are your expectations or dreams with you and pan in the near future?”

Aviel S. - “I hope to complete a project that I’ve been working on with a group called Steelpan Essentials, and also start a couple of projects myself. I hope to continue being an arranger and hopefully someday get the opportunity to work with bands outside of Trinidad and Tobago for Panorama.”

WST - “What do you know now, you wish you had known years ago?”

Aviel S. - “I wish I had a better understanding of how to market myself better as a musician.”

WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Aviel S. - “No not really, but if there is anyone reading that can help me [with the following] please do.  I am looking for a recording of the final Pan in the 21st Century competition where Sforzata Steel Orchestra would have won.  Any information as to where I can find it would be much appreciated.”


photos provided by Aviel Scanterbury

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