Home * Site Search * Headlines * Events * Pan Global * Message Board * Guest Book * Pan News * Pan Radio * Twitter * Facebook * About Us

The Philippa Schuyler Steelpan Ensemble meets St Stithians Boys’ Prep Marimba Band of South Africa

Percussion Concert at Brooklyn, New York’s Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented - I.S. 383
 Follow When Steel Talks on
In Pictures
Philippa Schuyler Major Steelpan Ensemble and St Stithians Prep youth together after performances
Philippa Schuyler Major Steelpan Ensemble and St Stithians Prep youth together after performances

Brooklyn, New York - History was made this April 12 as South Africa’s St Stithians College Marimba Band traveled over 7,000 miles, performing at the prestigious Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented located in Brooklyn, New York.  The occasion was a joint concert with the  Philippa Schuyler Major Steelpan Ensemble.

The two-week tour labeled “2010 USA Tour,” would take the St Stithians College Marimba Band all-male group made up of twenty-four youth, through Washington DC, Boston and New York before they headed back to their home of Johannesburg, South Africa. Their performances featured the boys playing the Zimbabwe musical invention - a family of instruments known as the Marimba.

St Stithians 2010 Tour catalog
Tour Catalog

The thought that a group from Johannesburg, South Africa would, could or even should perform at a school in the predominantly Hispanic and African American neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn as the major performing stop in its itinerary - would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.  This meeting, performance and special moment say much about the people running these two special organizations.  Furthermore, it says a lot about the possibilities of the future.

In spite of its enormous wealth, culture and beauty, South Africa is a place with a very recent history of horrific injustices, pain, suffering, racism, death and inequalities suffered by its native majority Afro population, experiences second to none in the annals of atrocities of man to man.

Philippa Schuyler Major Steelpan Ensemble open joint performance in Loretta U. Boyce Auditorium
Philippa Schuyler Major Steelpan Ensemble open joint performance in Loretta U. Boyce Auditorium

Ironically, the United States also continues to be haunted by its equally dreadful history on race issues.  And no where is this legacy felt and seen more, than in the very neighborhood where this concert was being held - a neighborhood symbolic of many in the USA which identify with a similar legacy.

On this day at the concert, none of the past wounds and distress were visible.  What was center stage instead was a spark, an idea and a means for the world youth to perhaps move forward in a more harmonic and cooperative world - a short glimpse at a possible future.

Nyasha Rhoden - Steelpan Music Director, Philippa Schuyler - addresses the audience
Nyasha Rhoden - Steelpan Music Director, Philippa Schuyler - addresses the audience

This unique collaboration and performance was facilitated by educator and music teacher Ms. Nyasha Rhoden.  In addition to coordinating this event, Ms. Rhoden is the Steelpan Director of Philippa Schuyler.  The success of Ms. Rhoden’s program is evident and goes beyond the actual student performances.  There is an obvious sensitivity to and recognition of the capacity of the steel pan instrument among students and staff of Philippa Schuyler, one not normally experienced in the New York educational system.  Moreover, the global outreach of the program is undeniable.

Ms. Rhoden is a passionate contributor to the steelpan music movement and community and whose success is seen clearly through her work.  The New York educational system and the New York Steelpan community are fortunate to have her dedication, presence and involvement.

The Show:

The Philippa Schuyler’s Steelpan Ensemble opened the show with three classic selections - ‘What’s Going On?’ by Marvin Gaye - ‘Oil and Music’ by David Rudder & Machel Montano (which had some in the audience dancing in their seats) and  ‘Smooth Criminal’ by Michael Jackson.

St Stithians Marimba Band on stage
St Stithians Prep youth onstage, with band director Michael Sibanda, right

Mr. Michael Sibanda, director of the St Stithians Boys’ Preparatory Marimba Introduction and Repertoire, led the performance of the group through a varied performance that featured everything from traditional South African folks songs to Miriam Makeba’s ‘Click Song’ to Sting’s ‘Every Breath You Take.’

The audience, made up of students of Philippa Schuyler Middle School and some visiting parents, was completely taken by the energetic performances of the visiting South African “Saints.”  Beyond the music, this venture was a  successful lesson in cooperation, friendship and outreach for the students, teachers and community.

A Shared Experience:

Philippa Schuyler principal Ms. Barbara Sanders opened her address to her young scholarly charges present with the phrase “To Whom Much is Given,” - and the entire student body responded immediately with gusto “Much is Required!”  In that brief exchange Ms. Sanders summed up all that it is about.  Moreover, it summarized what this whole exchange between two schools, thousands of miles apart, signified.

St Stithians Marimba Ensemble on stage
 St Stithians Boys’ Prep headmaster Alistair Stewart addresses the audience

According to Mr. Alistair Stewart, headmaster of St Stithians Boys’ Preparatory, Johannesburg was settled on the “largest depository of gold ever discovered on the planet earth,” saying “hence why Johannesburg is known as the city of gold...and to the world.”  Stewart went on further to explain that they were bringing the gift of their music, the music of South Africa, and that they were also bringing “the message that music brings us all together.”

St Stithians College has over 2,500 students.  The Boys’ Preparatory School covers the ages 9 through 13.  The boys who were on tour and performed at this concert were 12 and 13 year-olds from grades 6 and 7.

The motto for this tour as printed on the Saint Stithians Boys’ Preparatory catalog is “a South African School Making a World of Difference.”  The motto for the Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented  is, “To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required,” and is the basis for all their beliefs and achievements.

The overlapping themes of the embodiment of multiculturalism and the meeting of high expectations and standards are the same for both educational organizations.

Loretta U. Boyce - Educator and Visionary

This concert was performed in the Loretta U. Boyce Auditorium where the walls are adorned with large banners emblazoned with words like ‘Justice,’ ‘Hope,’ ‘Loyalty,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Respect’ and ‘Courage.’  These words seem to take on an added significance as these two groups of young people based continents apart, came together for this performance.

Loretta U. Boyce is the educator who helped create the school for gifted and talented black and Hispanic youngsters in Brooklyn, known as Philippa Schuyler Middle School.

Ms. Boyce joined the New York City public school system in the mid-1950’s as a kindergarten teacher at Public School 125.  She later became an acting assistant principal, assistant superintendent of schools in District 16 and deputy superintendent of schools in District 32.  In 1976, she was named principal of Intermediate School 383, the Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented, a special school she had envisioned for minority-group children.  The school’s achievements in reading have consistently ranked it among the top schools in New York City.

And the joint concert between students of Philippa Schuyler and South Africa’s St Stithians Boys’ Preparatory School would have made Mrs. Boyce extremely proud.

Philippa Schuyler

Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented is named after noted American child prodigy and pianist Philippa Duke Schuyler (August 2, 1931-May 9, 1967).  Actress Halle Berry and singer Alicia Keys, were reportedly set to work together on a movie called Composition of Black and White.  Keys is expected to play Philippa Schuyler, in the upcoming film to be produced by Berry.  Composition of Black and White is based on the life of Philippa Schuyler, a pioneer in interracial battles in the United States, who died in a helicopter crash in May 1967.

In Pictures

Nyasha Rhoden - nr311@nyu.edu; Alistair Stewart - astewart@stithian.com;  Michael Sibanda - msibanda@stithian.com

Leave a comment in the WST forum

Comment here!

Bookmark and Share
 Follow When Steel Talks on

When Steel Talks...
Everybody Listens!!

Get your WST Tee shirt now!
Click for details


Get your Steelband Music CDs, DVDs and Exclusive Steelband Artwork here

© 2010 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

contact WhenSteelTalks@hotmail.com
 More on Steelpan In Trinidad & Tobago        Pan Global Page

Click to hear current Pan Radio Show

Pan News Digest

Web Feed

Home * Pan News * Headlines * Events * Message Board * Guest Book * Pan Radio * Pan Global * Pan TnT * Pan New York * About Us * Join Mailing List * Contact

©2010  Basement Recordings, Inc. All rights reserved

Search for Anything Steelpan Music Related