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Steelpan Music Instrument Sweeping USA High School and College Campuses

Cool Steel and Pan Radio Return as College Campus Favorites

Eastern Kentucky University Steelband and Miami University Steelband

USA - From Maine through New York to Florida passing through Mississippi to Texas on to California and up to Alaska, the steelpan music instrument has found a home or  niche on the campuses of America’s middle schools and institutions of higher learning in astonishing and profound manners.   Indeed, steel orchestras supporting the full complement of the steelpan family of instruments can even be found in America’s heartland and Bible belt.  Ohio, Chicago, Arizona and all the other states of the union take the instrument and its music very seriously. 

 

The “First and Ten” Steel Band

The sole notion of the steelpan as an exotic musical invention by descendants of African slaves from the Caribbean island of Trinidad — conjuring up only images of exotic island excursions, travel and tourism—has long passed. The “Pan” music instrument as it is commonly called, is serious business and has hit the big time.  From the bright lights of Broadway to prestigious musical houses like Lincoln Center to the stages of Brigham Young University’s Hawaii campus, a simple Google search under keywords ‘steelpan’ and ‘university’ yields a staggering and eye–opening reality to the popularity of the steelpan instrument and growing movement.  The likes of Columbia University and New York University have had significant programs and/or courses that have featured the steel orchestra and steelpan instrument as integral components within musical development and the performing arts.

University of Alaska Fairbanks The Steel Drum

The all-steelpan music show “Cool Steel” is a monster hit with the Caribbean college/university community worldwide. Program director William Gaines admits that the college students were a logical target of the PanOnTheNet ‘Pan-Radio’ programs because of the practically round–the–clock access habits of university students. “We knew we had something that struck a chord on our hands” says Gaines.  “More than that, the naturally open nature and wide tastes of school–age students in general make PanOnTheNet a logical choice and definite draw for many in the high school and college communities.  Additionally, since the program content is internationally geared, a lot of the college population can relate to it.”

Indeed, Cool Steel usually heard on Fridays on www.PanOnTheNet.com is riding the crest of the soaring ever–growing interest and popularity in steelpan music availability on the internet.   Panonthenet.com states, that while there has been enormous growth across the board in visitors to Pan Radio, the most substantial growth has occurred with “.edu (educational) organizations.”  Almost immediately the show had established itself among regular pan music patrons. But this new surge among the .edu organizations suggests that Cool Steel is tapping into a young new market that is technology–savvy and constantly searching for diversity and something fresh.

A cursory look at the WST updateable events calendar shows that major educational institutions in almost every state in America has had or has scheduled a major steelband  musical forum, concert or function for 2008.

Massive cutting–edge steel orchestras of 100 to 125 players can be found in the urban setting of Brooklyn in the summer months, attracting large audiences to their performances.  Even Hollywood has tapped into the growing popularity of the steelpan instrument.  Last summer hip–hop superstar WyClef Jean produced a video shoot that included New York’s  Pantonic Steel Orchestra. 

Jazz legend, the late great Max Roach often commented that the steelpan instrument and its music belonged on a world stage.  Familiarizing new audiences, and captivating current ones, with the musical works of giant and landmark composers like Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, Ray Holman, Leon ‘Smooth’ Edwards, Jit Samaroo, Pelham Goddard and one of the greatest composer/musicians to grace the steelpan music arena—the late Clive Bradley —to name a few, are hallmark characteristics of Pan Radio’s programming.  The works of these greats are thought by many to be the equivalent of musical accomplishments of the greatest classical musicians.

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