Ken “Professor” Philmore Remembered - The Passing of an Icon

As told to When Steel Talks by members of the global steelband music community.

Performing Artist and Steelband Arranger Ken "Professor" Philmore
Ken “Professor” Philmore has gone too soon; it was really, really a tragic accident and everybody is in shock. He is still a young man, such an infectious personality that none of us could forget.

He was very, very passionate about his music, and - about people, and loved sharing his knowledge with anyone, particularly younger musicians, who always seemed to have an affinity with him. I know this because I worked with him several times in the U.S. and I saw that connection. I would describe him as ebullient; he was never down; it was just in his later years I saw him ‘down’ twice, very sad to see that – all of us go through ups and downs, you know? But generally, he had a very nice way.

His music was infectious. He had a flair – style and flair when he was performing, man, he was a consummate showman – that endeared him. He endeared himself to people all around the world, and he, I think, was responsible for many people, who had not come in contact with the steelpan – to get to love it. He drew a lot of people to it. So he did a lot of work for his country in promoting an instrument that he loved so much.

He had some fine compositions, you know; ‘Pan By Storm’ I think was his signature piece…. Wonderful piece of music – so I mean, he’s gone now, so we wish him eternal rest.
Ray Holman - Educator, Champion Arranger, Composer

Condolences to the family of Ken "Professor" Philmore. It is truly a sad day for us in the steelband community and by extension for Trinidad and Tobago. What a great loss! No more massive hugs and warm greetings, whole face lighting up saying Meesh! How yuh going baby!"

You all know that this is the typical interactive behaviour of Ken. One of the warmest individuals I've ever met. He exudes passion for pan and had such hopes for its future. It's up to us to help him fulfil his dreams for the future of the art form. He advocated for togetherness and brotherly love so let's stop the bashing and get serious about taking pan positively into the future.

He has gone to make his contribution in Heaven so let's make a sterling contribution here. R.I.P. "Professor".....You will indeed be sorely missed but never forgotten.
Michelle Huggins-Watts - Arranger, Educator 

The members of the New York Carnival Band Leaders Association would like to extend our deepest Sympathy and Condolences to the family, friends and the Steel Pan fraternity.  He was a great talent and would surely be missed. Rest In Peace.
Andalcio [Andy] Lewis

We will remember you Ken “Professor” Philmore you are one of the greats and a dear friend so RIP Bro.
Pepe Francis MBE - Chairman, British Association of Steel Bands
Ken "Professor" Philmore
Ken “Professor” Philmore at When Steel Talks studios

I still vividly remember the first time I met Ken "Professor" Philmore as a student at Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School in Trinidad. His charisma was immense, and, for me, it was like meeting a rock star-- I couldn't wait to get home to tell my parents about meeting this legendary figure. He was one of the initial steelpan soloists whose vocabulary I had the pleasure of absorbing, and the passion that he brought to the stage was incredibly infectious. "Professor's" sense of style and swag left a deep impression upon many a steelpan musician, especially the players who hailed from San Fernando (which is where I am originally from).

Though we lost touch over the years (I no longer live in Trinidad), my respect and admiration for Mr. Philmore never waned, and I was really happy to be able to be able to directly pay homage, a few years ago, to stalwarts like Ken “Professor” Philmore and Ray Holman at a ceremony hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Music Literacy Trust. The magnitude of Ken Philmore's influence cannot be understated, and I, along with many of my contemporaries, will make sure that his work is never forgotten. I offer my sincerest condolences and wishes of strength to his family, friends and his multitude of admirers.


Liam Teague Presidential Research,
Scholarship and Artistry Professor
Professor of Music
Head of Steelpan Studies
Director NIU Steelband
Northern Illinois University

Trinidad & Tobago - “All I can tell you is that, “Professor” is my brethren, he will be very missed. A good player – a great player, a great friend – a personal friend of mine. To ‘loss’ a man, who so represent this country a lot, all over the world, you know? And everybody mourning his death, all of us mourning his death, all of us musicians – everybody, and the whole world, the pan fraternity and even other musicians. Our prayers go out to him, he will be very missed.

“Professor is an icon. Nice person; loving person. I could remember, Phase II did a CD, somewhere in the nineties, and we wanted to do a guest player. And I chose “Professor” to come and do it because he has a different style…If you here that CD – I forget the name of the song. We have that CD with him playing. If you hear that solo that man give us.

He’s a loved person by everybody; beloved by everybody. You couldn’t meet a nicer person that “Professor,” in the Pan fraternity, even as a human being, you know? And everybody love him.

…As a matter of fact, we’re going up there tonight, our band [Phase II] going up there tonight [October 2], to the wake, by Fonclaire, you know? So we going and support them. I’m supposed to play in the…funeral….ask me what tune would I play? I say ‘Pan by Storm’….It was a great song. That was a great song; I don’t know what happen, what happen that year [1990] that they [Fonclaire Steel Orchestra] didn’t win. But, say what. He gone to a better place, and we all pray for him, pray for the family, and everybody...

Len “Boogsie” Sharpe -
Champion Panorama arranger, Composer, Performing Artist

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Condolences go out to the family of Ken “Professor” Philmore; what a great soul he was. His professional approach to the instrument and his musicianship was so great, it will be very hard for someone to fill that place he had in the Pan-world. He had everything needed, to capture the world. His personality. His charisma for the instrument, and the love he shared with everyone he met. We did shows together in the US, and also in Trinidad, recordings on the Pan Assembly CDs, and many more.

Again Blessings to his wife Sophia and family. May he Rest in Peace. And I know he will be welcomed in that Big Steelband with the other greats who have moved on, RIP.
In Peace My Friend,

Robert Greenidge
Champion Panorama arranger, Composer, Performing Artist

First of all condolences to the Philmore family. Ken ‘Professor‘ Philmore was a pan person extraordinaire as a soloist and Steelband arranger. He was a true ambassador for his beloved country always with a smile and jovial stature as he played his instrument spreading the culture to the far reaches of the world.

All his accomplishments in the Steelband world his concerts showed his professionalism in representing the home where the pan was born.

Pro as he was affectionately called arranged for a number of steel orchestras in Trinidad Fonclaire and Skiffle to mention two of his biggest and also Pan Sonatas in New York He will truly be missed home and abroad.

We have lost a son a true son of Trinidad and Tobago a tremendous exponent if the art form and it is not that easy to replace him.

Martin Douglas
President, USSA

The fraternity of the Arts and Culture and panist mourns the untimely passing of the icon, the innovator and inspiration to all musical artist Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore this morning.

In his life time he was able to share his innate love for our National instrument and in so doing magnified is presence on the global stage. The wake of his passing has created a vacuum that we must now fill with his love, ingenuity, dedication to the art form and his passion.

Composer, arranger and musician par excellence, the steelpan organizations across the globe has lost an icon.

On behalf of the Members of Council, the San Fernando City Corporation and the Citizens of San Fernando we send our heartfelt prayers and condolences to his family during this time.

Junia Regrello - Mayor of San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago

Grenada, W.I.
- It is with our deepest sympathy that we extend our prayers to the family and friends of Steel pan icon, Mr. Ken “Professor” Philmore. On behalf of the entire steel band fraternity of Grenada, we pray that Almighty God will strengthen you in your time of grief.

The circumstances surrounding the passing of this icon can only be viewed as unfortunate and untimely.

The footprints “Professor” left will always be recorded in our history, they will always form part of the legacy and times of the global steel pan movement and for this we are eternally grateful.

We who are alive to owe it to him ensure that his legacy lives on.

To the members of the entire Pan Trinbago family, we say, stand firm, stay strong and never lose sight of the fragility of life, and what your life represents as part of an international movement.

Ken touched the lives of many with his enthusiasm for music, his passion for pan and his excitement for the stage. Many of our young arrangers in Grenada have embraced him as a role model for all the positive attributes that he imparted.

Thank you “Professor,” thank you pan man and arranger, thank you for your life which was loaned to us. We wish you eternal rest with Almighty God and may the Peace of the Holy Spirit remain with your family and friends as we mourn together.

God’s Blessings and Guidance.

Jason Skeete,
Grenada Steel Band Association (GSBA)
Grenada, W.I.

All societies have art that most reflect their people. These pieces allow you to feel a culture. It’s not the tourist view; it’s the native view. And it’s the rare, gifted artist who creates these masterpieces. Ken “Professor” Philmore is one of those artists, and “Pan by Storm” is his culture defining piece.

In “Pan by Storm”, “Professor” lays his country bare. You experience Trinidad’s folk tradition, its modern conventions, its cosmopolitan sophistication and the ebbs and flows the people. Global influences are present in the music, but the Trinidadian vernacular is always front and center. “Professor” is saying, “we know your ting, but dis is we ting”, which is classic Trinidad. The share joy the music shows what Trinidad could be, and sometime is.

“Pan by Storm” is one the most beloved arrangements in panorama history and Ken Philmore one of the most loved panmen of all time. When Ken passed, it was like a family member died. Even if you never met Professor, his music was a part of your life; part of our identity. Ken’s musical output was far greater than “Pan by Storm”, but his legacy is tied to that masterwork, a piece inextricably linked to Trinidad’s people.

Rest in Peace my Brother.
Garvin Blake - Panist, Performing & Recording Artist

It is with a deep sense of lost, grief and a heavy heart, that I am informing the Steelpan fraternity and the local and international community on the passing of Ken “Professor” Philmore around 9:00 a.m. this morning, September 30th 2018, at the intensive care unit of the San Fernando General Hospital, where he was taken on the morning of Monday 24th (Republic Day) following his involvement in a vehicular accident on the North bound lane of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway in the Claxton Bay area, in which he sustained some serious injuries. “Professor” or Pro as he is affectionately called, succumb to these injuries, and has cast the entire Steelpan world into mourning.

To his wife and children, his relatives, and his many friends and associates, we at Pan Trinbago extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to all of you, and pray that God would give fresh courage and renewed strength to face the days ahead. Professor's passing, will definitely leave a void within the fraternity and those who knew and loved him, that no one in this lifetime will be able to fill. He was a worthy ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago across the globe where he played his heart out on our national Instrument to appreciative audiences. There is so much that can be said about this humble little man of steel, who was always an original that no one could copy. But I would rather leave my comments for another place and time, and for those who knew him better, and enjoyed a closer walk with him over the years.

The giver of life is also the receiver of life, to whom we are all grateful to have had the privilege to enjoy the company of the likes of Ken “Professor” Philmore in his living years. The Steelpan fraternity will be all the poorer without him. May he Rest In Peace, as he is welcome amongst all the greats that went before. He made his mark and will be sorely missed, but the creator knows best. Farewell brother.

Michael L Joseph
Public Relations Officer
Pan Trinbago Inc. TC.

Hatters condolences for Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore

The members of Petrotrin Hatters Steel Orchestra extend their sympathies and condolences to the family and close friends of our late brother in pan, Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore (1959 - RIP 2018); age 59.

A steelpan performer respected around the world; ‘Pro’ was a well loved pan soloist, arranger and composer in TT and largely in the US. His friendly, bubbly and enthusiastic character, had much to do with that.

Where much is, and will be, recorded elsewhere about the exuberant Kenrick ‘Ken’ ‘Pro’ ‘Professor’ Philmore, Hatters would like to briefly share the following with his family, friends and supporters.

As recorded; his fascination with the steelpan began when he was only four years old. In 1974, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Hatters Steel Orchestra in San Fernando. Some recent notes suggest that he had done a very short stint with Antillean All Stars, Carib Street, before joining Hatters.

How he got his alias ‘Pro’ is also part of the Hatters histories, and goes as this two part story from Ken’s own biography.

On one of his early visits, a member jokingly remarked “Who is this young kid with these old fashioned glasses?” referring to his bone-rimmed spectacles, “He looks more like a ‘Professor’ than a pan player.”...
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Farewell our brother, may Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore RIP.
Hatters Steel Orchestra - PRO

Deepest condolences to the “Professor” who has contributed a lot to the success of Caribbean Extravaganza with his arrangements that was compatible to smaller steel bands. The Diaz clan will always keep his memory going as our youngest member Isaac Ferrette 7 years old has adopted his unique style of solos.. You will be missed Ken and the world will miss the generous contribution you gave to the steel pan industry..
RIP brother...

Bob Diaz  - Mgr., Caribbean Extravaganza
Clive Bradley, Pelham Goddard and Ken "Professor" Philmore at When Steel Talks
Ken “Professor” Philmore, Clive Bradley and Pelham Goddard at When Steel Talks/Basement studios
“Professor” Philmore – “Pro” as we call him. A very loving fella, a very humble guy, we love him when he play, we love to see him - he hug everybody, kiss everybody, he love everybody – we’ll miss him very much. We cannot afford to lose anymore of those type of people in Trinidad, or the world of pan, I think we will miss him very much….He was great as a performing artist too. I played with him many times – in jazz shows.

I had him sing a song in the studio – one of his songs - the vocalist who was to sing it didn’t turn up, and I told him to sing it, I can’t remember the song now…. We were very saddened, it was a very kind of saddening thing for the fraternity – for the pan fraternity.
Pelham Goddard - Champion Arranger, Songwriter, Performing Musician 

...He wore the title of Ambassador exceedingly well; he performed globally with the best, from Mercer Ellington orchestra in the USA, to panorama in New York with Sonatas Steel band, with Pan Lara steel band in Washington DC then to return home to Trinidad to lead Fonclaire and Sound Specialists in Trinidad & Tobago Panorama.

Such a life cut short from us, it sure hurts but I believe if a message was left for us it was that we must pay attention to the development of our own instrument, the pan. We must document its history, those who contributed to its development has left an indelible mark with their lives as they adapted themselves to the instrument. Ken ‘Professor’ was truly a unique kind, he lived for pan, and he loved the pan and died after playing the pan.

Condolences to his family, especially Sophia and children and the pan fraternity of Trinidad & Tobago.

May he rest in Peace. Take a rest Ken ‘Professor.’  

Von Martin - Journalist, broadcaster and author  

The prodigious talent that Trinidad and Tobago produces in all spheres is to me, a constant source of amazement. Ken "Professor" Philmore was certainly one of the stars. He was one of those persons who one would approach in awe but leave having found a friend and a kindred spirit. His music, like his personality, was always filled with warmth and joy, whether one was listening to his arrangements, to his compositions, or to his solo performances. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his book "Strength to Love" noted that "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Ken “Professor” Philmore through his music and his life showed his true measure. His music will live on but his radiant spirit will sorely be missed.
Dawn K.

Dr. Dawn Batson - Educator, Panist, Composer, Arranger

I just want to extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Philmore’s family and loved ones. Pro has always been a genuine person. Always showing love and positive energy. I remember one year working in Trinidad for carnival. After not qualifying for the next rounds of the panorama, some friends and myself went to get something to eat and drink by Smokey and Bunty’s, and there was some gentlemen having a conversation by where we were standing. One of the men in the conversation decided to bring me up as a topic and not in the most positive light either lol. Long story short, amongst those gentlemen was Pro. I don’t believe anyone of them knew I was standing there or at least not enough to hear the conversation but before the man could finish I just remember Pro letting the man know the he should give the youths a chance and how well I was doing for my age. I appreciated that so much. He was one of a kind. Every time after that it was always love between the two of us. So I just want to thank him for that and always just being there for the youths and pushing the instrument and culture all over the world. I will never forget him....

Andre White  - Winning Panorama Arranger, Performing Artist, Educator
Ken "Professor" Philmore with Harmony Steel Orchestra
Ken "Professor" Philmore with New York's Harmony Steel Orchestra

I don’t ever remember anyone formally introducing me to Professor, but that was the beauty in knowing of him. He had such a genuine spirit that he would speak to anyone with a big smile on his face spreading the words “Love” and “Love in the house”. I had the pleasure of speaking to him on two occasions both times in NY. The first occasion was at Harmony’s pan yard in Brooklyn when he arranged hooked for the band and I went with some family and friends to take music. The second occasion was at Pan Sonatas pan yard where he happened to be hanging out one night. On both occasions, “Professor” hugged me, a complete stranger to him, just for hailing him out and congratulating him on his work and his success. I have yet to meet enough kind spirited folks such as Pro, and to feel genuine love from an arranger that I admired and kept up with is an unforgettable feeling.

Kendall K. Williams - Educator, Panorama Arranger

I can still remember walking into Fonclaire Steel Orchestra that night, a few days before Panorama finals of 2011. I was asked by Dr Jeannine Remy to play a timpani at the end of their arrangement of "A raging storm" in which Ken did. I didn't realize it would be the start of a very great friendship that we would share. When I was a member of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, I remembered there was a day Carlon Harewood and I decided to run away and head to Maracas beach for a bake and shark. Who would we find when we got there? Of course! It was Ken again relaxing. That was when our conversation got better and we were able to dialog about music and Steelpan. My favorite memory of Ken would be in 2016 when one of my students invited me to their church - The Cathedral of Christian Excellence (CCE). I accepted the invitation and went. Who would I see playing along with the musicians? was Ken! I fell in love with the service and decided that I would go that church as often as I could. Each time that Ken and I attended the service, we made it a reunion and caught up wherever we left off previously. I was saddened to hear of the accident, but devastated upon the news of his passing. He was a friend, a brother, an entertainer all in one to me. I certainly thank God for the good times we had and I wish his family, the Steelpan community, friends, his extended family at the CCE strength during this time. We can all share one thing in common at this time, and that is we were ALL impacted by the icon, Ken "Professor" Philmore. Rest in Eternal Peace my brother!

Marcus Ash
Secretary -
Eastern Region of Pan Trinbago/Drillmaster/ Educator/Entrepreneur

Ken "Professor" Philmore
Ken "Professor" Philmore

I vividly remember as a young boy coming to Trinidad from Tobago in 1985 to attend the National School Steelband Music Festival at the Jean Pierre Complex with the Trintoc Tobago Youth Steelband. I recall seeing this small yet larger-than-life character on stage with the Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School performing Crazy's 'Suck Meh Soucouyant'. His personality was so magnetic and infectious, that I was captivated from start to end. Not to mention, he had immense flair and was some sort of style extraordinaire as I recall witnessing three costume changes that day.

Professor always exuded positivity and his passion for the steel pan instrument was evident when he played. It was a joy to witness his musical prowess. He mastered the stage. He played with the skill of enthralling his audience and drawing them completely into the music. He had a special ability to encourage youth and invested so much time into sharing his knowledge with young musicians and helping them to hone their craft. He was the man that would take you aside and teach you over and over again while boosting your confidence with encouraging and reassuring words. So great was the humility of a musical giant who has performed with international artistes such as Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton and Tito Puente; and who has also performed at esteemed venues including Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall and the Apollo Theatre.

Over the course of years, he has played an integral part in my life and especially my musical journey, acting as a mentor and dear friend. He moulded me, nurtured me, offered indispensable advice, provided me with ideas and constantly motivated me. “Professor” would always greet you with the most inviting hug and smile. He was a warm, loving, happy, energetic human, full of charisma. One of my fondest memories of Ken 'Professor' Philmore will now be spending what would be those final precious moments with him on Friday 21 September 2018 at my birthday celebration. He came and played for my birthday and in usual “Professor” style, he was instantly the life of the party, hugging, greeting and chatting with everyone.

This loss is very untimely and tragic and has left a void in my heart. I will truly miss him. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife Sophia, his children and the entire steel pan community and fans worldwide.

Duvone Stewart - Champion Panorama arranger, Educator, Composer, Performing Artist

As indicated by the outpouring of grief by an astonishingly wide range of people at “Professor” Philmore's death, he was loved by very many, and that's how I encountered him. I knew him but not well but every time we met he always exuded a warmth and generosity, and now I see that he was so always and with everyone. And that is what he was as a musician too, warm and giving as musician you could ever meet.

Kim Johnson - Author, Journalist, Historian

Trinidad & Tobago - My pan learning started late. Mainly because of my classically trained background with violin. When I was old enough to drown myself in pan I learned about arrangers like Pro in books and classes. The first time I actually met him was in Courts Sound Specialist panyard. I still didn't make the connection, because this person smiled the biggest warmest smile and greeted me like we were long-time friends. So initially I thought “Have I met this person before today?” He continued by asking  “How yuh going??” - but not in the rush away way Trinis like to ask. Very polite friendly concerned way. Little casual small talk happened until he was called away by someone. We spoke nothing about pan.

Now this is early in my pan career. I now start in d ting. So no way this man know me. I still didn't make the connection of who he was. I even asked someone “Das Pro?” I learnt his music first. After actually meeting the man I realized this man's music is so much greater than him. In the sense that, he is so 'Tuh d ground'. So full of love. When you meet him you meet .... just a simple passionate man. Not an arranger. Or an artist. Just a man. I've never seen him walk in a room with an ‘I’m-a-big-time-arranger’ attitude. And he greeted EVERYONE the same way.

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Gerelle Forbes - Panist, TV and Radio Broadcaster, Composer, Actress, Performing Artist
..“We met this young guy Ken Philmore, and he told us we have to come to his home and ask his parents which we did. I had to promise them that we would take good care of him; I told them not to worry he would be taken care of. I give them my name, address and phone number where he would be staying, that was at my house.

“The minute he got to my house and was introduced to some of the players and members, had some refreshment, we took him down to the basement where the stage side was practicing; remember it was still June, we were astounded by what he could do on a tenor, and this went on for hours. We saw the joy, passion and love he had for the pan right off; we had to actually stop him from playing.

“By this time the basement was full. After that first night we knew that we had a gem, a star in the making, such love and passion for the pan and everyone he meet - no fake. He was very sincere through and through. He would always greet you with love, a hug and a kiss on the cheek saying “I love you,” that’s the way he lived his life - and he died with that same kind of love. May he Rest In Eternal Peace..... We love you, “Professor”.” 

Mack Scott
President, Manager, Cook and Bottle Washer
Sonatas Steel Orchestra

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When I first met Ken "Professor" Philmore, I was a little girl attending an event at City Hall in Port of Spain, where I was scheduled to perform. Professor was also scheduled to perform that evening. I remember standing backstage during his performance and thinking that this man knew very strongly and passionately what he was doing. I was so impressed with his ability to play the instrument in such a comfortable way that allowed the audience to sway and sing a long. After meeting him backstage a few moments later, he offered words of encouragement and told me to stick with playing pan. This celebrity panist took the time to have a short conversation with little me and it meant everything. In later years I became an even bigger fan when I heard his arrangement of "Pan By Storm." What a masterpiece! Above all, Professor's humbleness and kindness are truly the characteristics that made him a special human being. The world we live in today needs more people like Pro and I am sad that we had to lose him so soon. My condolences to his family and friends.

May he continue to live on in our music. 

Dr. Mia Gormandy - Panist, Educator, Arranger, Performing Artist
Pro was a special human being was warmth loving would make his presence felt ounce he is in sermon is pure joy love and happiness may he have a peaceful. Rip you did it your way Pro much love we all love you.

Roy Cape - Band Leader,  Musician, Composer, Author
   Remembering Ken “Professor” Philmore
Atiba Chike Williams and Nubia Williams - Tribute to Ken 'Professor' Philmore

There was something transformational about Ken "Professor" Philmore and his art. We all know folks with way less gifts than Pro who are almost unapproachable in their dealings with others. Ken embraced being a salt fish and his music conveyed that: always joyful, humane, playful, for all, and for all time. Much like his personality he left all on the floor and we are richer for it.

Dawad Philip - Journalist, Promoter

My first experience with Ken “Professor” Philmore was in 2003 which was my first official year joining Pan Sonatas stateside. I remember everyone announcing “the return of Pro” and I was very curious to find out what this person was about. When panorama practice rolled around and Pro set foot in the yard, the atmosphere definitely brightened. Pro was very passionate about his music and he was very encouraging to us all as we went through our daily rehearsals.

In 2007, I was given the opportunity to arrange my first stage side song for Sonatas. When I had finished the piece, Pro came by the yard to lime. He mentioned that he had just come up but he had to show love to his family to his Sonatas family although he was slated arrange Harmony Steel Orchestra that year. As he hung around the yard, he heard my arrangement of “Band From Space” and asked management who did the song. He then called me outside and shook my hand telling me that he really loved the piece and that can see me going far once I remained humble and passionate. This was one of the biggest forms of encouragement I had received at that time and it always stuck with me.

Pro’s light shone on all he came in contact with and will surely be missed!

Marc Brooks - Arranger, Panist, Educator read more

Gone too soon... That joyful, spritely whisp of energy- full of love and craft- now no more. The passing of Professor Ken Philmore is a tragedy in so many ways. Not just because any death by accident and of someone adjudged to be young feels like a breach - but because he was a Genius that never got his due. As arranger. As player… As pioneer. And although Trinidad’s real talent seems to be its genius in disrespecting Heroes- something about Philmore’s passing at this time in our history seems to loom larger as metaphor and indictment. In him I feel we see visible a Genius Soul who had a capacity to command the world- but was restrained and confined by our pettiness and capacity to sabotage our Gifted and our Gifts…

Imagine if he had the support. Imagine him as a arrow-head of a ambassadorial thrust for Kaiso-Jazz, Pan, and Brand T&T Music. Imagine us taking ourselves seriously. As serious as Tax…

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Rubadiri Victor -  President at Artists' Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) and Director at Passion Fruit Publishing Ltd./ Ringbellion Multi-Mediaworks Ltd./ Nation

"This hurts. I knew Pro was loved by many, but today I realise he was loved by all. When we get caught up in our emotions, we may feel that his passing was too soon, unfair, a real shame. But there is no doubt in my mind that the first Professor of pan has done what his Creator sent him to this earth to do.

I accompanied Pro, as a Steelpan soloist, on a trip to Antigua for one of his live performances there, hosted by Gemonites Moods of Pan. In short, it was one of the highlights of my musical life. This past week culminating in the funeral service of Ken, was nothing short of epic. I think in the context of the current climate of our pan community, even in death he proved to us that love conquers all. I chipped up the Coffee yesterday, behind Fonclaire, toward the funeral home. At one time I was next to a lady holding a baby that could be no more than 6 months old. She said to me, "We doin' this for Pro!" I could go on and on about the encouraging and revitalizing words Pro shared with me on every occasion we met, always preceded by a big hug, a huge kiss and an invitation to rub his bald head. He was a mentor without trying to be. I could pontificate about his musical genius and the joy and pain that loving pan brought him. But in closing I would say, to the family of Ken Professor Philmore, we all share in your loss and we all share in the gift that was Pro."

Vanessa Headley - Panist, Arranger, Composer, Broadcaster
Trinidad and Tobago has lost one of its greatest pan ambassadors, one who would live in our hearts forever. The outpouring from all around the globe tells you how much Ken has touched so many people. My last words to Ken in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) was “thank you for the music, the world will miss you dearly. May you rest in peace, my brother.” Now take the heavens by storm.

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Mark Loquan - Co-Composer with Ken Philmore (2008-2015) / Founder of Music Literacy Trust 
   Remembering Ken “Professor” Philmore
Tamaki Haghihara - Tokyo, Japan: Tribute to Ken 'Professor' Philmore

...I also remember Pro for his stage performances on his acoustic tenor. I recall asking him why he didn’t have the techs place the microphone facing the top of the pan where the sound was a lot better. His response was in keeping with the animated Pro performance – when he really he gets into a tune he could not help but to vocalize a lot in synch with his performance and he didn’t want his outbursts to be heard over the sound system. What an amazing guy!

This year alone we saw the departure of Ellie Mannette, Professor and just two nights ago, Kim Loy Wong. Kim’s legacy is documented for all to see in the form of a recording, a book and a 15-minute-video on how to make and play the pan all compiled in the early 1960s, long before Stalin sang about the Secret of making Pan, by American Folk Historian Pete Seeger and stored in the archives of the Smithsonian Institute.

Pro leaves behind a tremendous legacy of dynamic stage performance and a deep unshakeable love of and commitment to pan and music. As we say in local parlance, when it comes to pan soloists he cut track for ‘gouti to run. If we truly honor that legacy, we who are left behind should make every effort to do all that is necessary to build on the foundation that Ken Professor Philmore and other departed steelpan pioneers created. Significantly, the leaders of the steelpan community need to come together to ensure that all aspects of the industry is sustainably developed to its fullest potential. It’s a gift from above but, as the saying goes, you either use it or lose it. If as many have suggested, the leadership issues cannot be reconciled for one reason or the other, then new leaders should come to the fore to take on this challenge. Pan is Trinbagonian by birth but belongs to no one person or institution. There is just too much at stake for the infighting and all other debilitating negatives that have been insinuated, unfortunate aspects of our culture it seems, to continue.

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Professor Brian Copeland
PVC and Campus Principal
The University of the West Indies, St Augustine 


Unlike most musicians and panist across the world, I have never had the opportunity to meet Ken "Professor" Philmore. I have never interacted with him personally but from the first time I heard about him and started looking him up, I enjoyed his exuberance when he performed. This is via the Internet. I remember hearing his arrangement with Harmony Steel orchestra and his spirit to the youths that were around him was an encouragement to me as a young musician. At that time, I was just discovering myself and music as a potential career. His arrangement of Pan by Storm performed by Fonclaire was an inspiration for me as a growing musician and arranger.  Professor is one of Antigua's most liked panists out of Trinidad. I know this from the stories I heard growing up and even the amount of persons here that are saddened by his passing. He will be missed. 

At this time, I'd like to express sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ken "Professor" Philmore on behalf of the Hells Gate Steel Orchestra and the entire Antigua & Barbuda community. We are indeed grateful for the contributions he has made to the artform and his music and style will live on for years to come. 

Many blessings, 
Khan Cordice - arranger (Hells Gate), Composer, Performing artist - Antigua & Barbuda

   Remembering Ken “Professor” Philmore
Bowie Sonnie Bowei - President, Steelband Association Nigeria: Tribute to Ken 'Professor' Philmore

I have known of “Professor” Philmore all my life but I had only interacted with him a few years ago when we held a benefit concert for our arranger Mr. Lennox 'Sam' Fortune. They are both gone now and coincidentally, they both came out of Hatters Steel Orchestra. I saw him as a role model growing up. Everybody wanted to be like him and it was overwhelmingly satisfying that at our last conversation he was the one who expressed praise about my work. 'Aquil boy, I love the work you doing brother. I read every article you write whether I'm in Trinidad or foreign and its a long time I waiting for someone to take the fight to Pan Trinbago.' He then embraced me like a father would embrace a son. It is moments like those that made me know that the struggle was worth it. The world has lost a pan star and as we celebrate his life we mourn as well. It is our duty to protect his legacy by collecting, studying and disseminating his music to the younger generation. Condolences to the family. Professor Philmore, safe journey to you my brother.

Aquil Arrindell - Educator, Arranger, Panist and Performing Artist
Leave it to “Professor” to bring something new in Pan by Storm and Pan Ecstasy. Should have been back-to-back Panorama “victories” in 1990 and 1991. I remember

Pan enthusiasts speaking up loudly about that stormy and orgasmic evolution of Pan in the then-latest revolution of Pan. For me, it still remains instant gratification, considering both performances have taken ahold of the culture, and so Panorama audiences have yet to let them go.

Why should they? In the annals of the competition, great bands have made their mark on that erotic wooden stage, but “Professor’s” intimacy with audiences as well as his unordinary music just seem to interact with everyone’s panoramic mood.

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Dalton Narine - Journalist, Panist, film director
   Remembering Ken “Professor” Philmore
Eiko Goto - Tokyo, Japan: Tribute to Ken 'Professor' Philmore

I got to the studio and Frankie McIntosh was laying the down the keyboards, Pro was so excited because I believe it was the first single, his own composition, he was doing for carnival. He and George took me out in the lobby and sang the first verse and chorus of the song then I went into the vocal booth at the platinum factory and cut the track “Pan By Storm.”

We have lost a giant of a showman, a true ambassador of the steeldrum, a man who has touched the hearts of so many with the love and passion he played the instrument. I would love to see a scholarship, cultural center, street named in his honour because he made people all over the world love Pan more and more each time he played the notes on the drum.

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“Keet Styla” FKA “Designer”  - Composer, Performing Artist

   Remembering Ken “Professor” Philmore
Letiticia 'Tish' Viljoen - President, PANZ INC. - Pan Australia and New Zealand: Tribute to Ken 'Professor' Philmore

I first met Ken “Professor” Philmore at Moods of Pan concert around 2002. His performance was so dynamic that he had all the children flocking around him and following him wherever he went. He was like our own local Pied Piper of Hamlin!

I also remember running into him in Trinidad during my visit there for carnival one year. He was very “spirited” but yet managed to recognize me and of course I got a hug and a kiss (as he is known for). He was just a passionate performer and we will all miss him very much. RIP “Professor”.

Robin Margetson - President, Panache Steel Orchestra, Antigua & Barbuda

During that time we never lost contact. He eventually cut back on his overseas travels and started spending more time at home and we saw more of each other either at shows where he played, in the panyard, playing at my birthday parties or just simply hanging out.

It was at one such hangout at The Harvard Club when Ken came to visit me, and with his usual exuberant self he said loudly, “Oh lord sister, so long I eh see yuh,” to which I replied, “Yes if you want to sangabranga your tail all over the place, what you expect?”

He burst out laughing then got excited and said, “Aye! Ah like that word! Sangabranga! Sangabranga!” he started to chant. He continued to use the word throughout the night, sometimes out of context, and when told so he said, “I know but I like it. Sangabranga! Sangabranga.” What can I say. I made up the word but it was made popular by Professor, and a number of speakers at his funeral service used it without knowing where it originated.

Another memorable encounter was two years ago, quite by accident when in Tobago, Natalie and I attended a show at which he was performing. Ken was so happy to see us, he insisted that we stay in Plymouth for J’Ouvert. It was the most fun all of us had had in years, with Ken in his element, hugging and kissing everyone, man, woman and child, and professing his love. Though we talked of doing it again, unfortunately we couldn’t get our schedules in sync. But whenever we met we thoroughly enjoyed those occasions. The only time I ever saw him angry or hurt was when large band Panorama results were announced.

I remember when interviewing him for a TV show, Ken said to me God had to come down on earth and tell him that Fonclaire didn’t win Panorama in 1990 with his composition and arrangement of Pan By Storm. It was the first time I saw that look of sadness in his eyes. Then three years ago when he arranged Sweet 50 for Fonclaire in celebration of the steelband’s 50th anniversary, I remember him screaming on the phone to me during an interview after the results and Fonclaire had placed ninth. “Robbery! They wicked to me after all these years. The problem is I never went to school with those judges. They learnt theory but I learnt it the practical way. None of them represents TT like me. My degree came from God. They could rob me in Panorama but I go places they have not."

But I must conclude my story with a bit of happiness, in that new efforts are now being advanced to have that illusive doctor of letters degree conferred on the Professor posthumously by the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and it could come as soon as next month, if not, next year.

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Joan Rampersad - Reporter -- Trinidad & Tobago Newsday

....Ken was nothing less than a singular talent, a true scientist of sound - self-taught and stellar with a contagious smile!

....Ken’s excellent musical wizardry which he contributed to the pieces he played on, were simply heart-palpitating!....he knew his instrument like any Professor knew his/her subject.

....He and Lord Kitchener were literally a match made in heaven. Now they are together again. So get ready for Lord Kitchener’s “PAN IN ‘A’ MINOR II” featuring the “Professor” as he Rises In Peace.

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Terry Brathwaite - Hon. Fellow (Faculty of Law) University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.
(Ret.) Director of Postgraduate Studies, Coventry Law School, Coventry University, United Kingdom

   Remembering Ken “Professor” Philmore
Atiba Chike Williams: Interview on Ken 'Professor' Philmore


   Ken “Professor” Philmore

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