USA - From
New York to
Florida passing through
Mississippi to Texas on
to California and up to
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.
Arizona and all the other states of the
union take the instrument and its music very
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
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
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
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
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
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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