New York Pan Pays Homage to Ken “Professor” Philmore

by When Steel Talks

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Performing Artist and Steelband Arranger Ken "Professor" Philmore
Ken “Professor” Philmore

New York, USA - Only “Pro” could have accomplished this with nothing but “love” in the house.

It was supposed to be and was, a celebration of the life of one of the biggest names in pan - Ken “Professor” Philmore. But in reality it was simply a reflection on how “Pro” lived his life and his impact on the living. And so on this early Fall evening, the Tropical Paradise Ballroom in Brooklyn, New York was packed with over six decades of New York Pan associates, band leaders, veteran panists and supporters. All there to show their love, respect for and in honor of - the late, both humble and great, Ken “Professor” Philmore. Lots of warmth and friendship.

The “Dons” of New York Pan were all present. Indeed a very special collection of men and women. Not always the easiest folks to get along; actually, they can be a very cantankerous bunch at times. But they are fundamentally big-hearted, good, resourceful, intelligent, genuine and special people who, like “Pro”, undeniably have one unwavering love: PAN. It takes a special individual and people to start and run a steelband franchise in New York’s perpetually hostile environment. It demands a whole lot of love, bravery and sacrifice for the artform, instrument, music and community.

Verne Rosemin, Keith Marcelle, Mack Scott & Clyde Durant
(left to right) Verne Rosemin, Keith Marcelle, Mack Scott & Clyde Durant

As one entered the buzzing main room of the Tropical Paradise ballroom, a cursory look from left to right - there - like if one was in a ‘time tunnel’ of New York Pan past and present - Mack Scott (Sonatas), Clyde Durant (Moods), Keith Marcelle (Sesame Flyers), Lincoln Critchlow (Sonatas & NY Pan Stars), Verne Rosemin (Despers USA), Junior “Man” Samuel (D’Radoes), Clement Franklin (Despers USA), Albert “Bing” Reid (Marsicans), Anthony “Pra” Trebuse (Pan Rebels), Anthony “Ike” Hinds (Dem Stars), Colette Baptiste (Women In Steel), Magnus Scanterbury (Pan Ambassadors), Martin Douglas (Crossfire), Anthony Joseph (Metro), Travis Roberts (CASYM), Michael Joseph (Harmony), Wayne Barnard (Pan Evolution), Sparkle Demming (NY Pan Stars). And that was at one glance. Surely there were many more who escaped the eye initially. And one cannot even attempt to name the host of past and present pan women and pan men in attendance.

On hand and performing were Pan Evolution and New York Pan Stars steel orchestras.  Of the latter, Martin Douglas, president of USSA (United States Steelband Association) “Their rendition of Pan By Storm was memorable.”

“Pro” was a true New Yorker in many respects, right down to the orange-colored BMW he drove when he called the Big Apple ‘home.’ No matter what pitfalls came his way he kept on chucking, moving, smiling, hugging and staying positive. And it is those attributes beyond his musical genius which endeared him to so many people. Crossing tribal lines in Brooklyn ain’t an easy thing to do. In fact it was almost impossible back in the day. But “Pro” did. He was the ultimate ambassador for pan. And his warmth and personality and footprints were all over the celebration.

As the Panorama arranger for New York’s mighty Sonatas Steel Orchestra (the Philmore-Sonatas collaboration resulted in six championships), the development and application of Philmore’s signature musical movements would be cemented. They became a dominant musical force to recon with in the 80s and pretty much set the standards. Black and Gold were the colors of the town. And that New York swagger and funk defined Philmore’s music.

Attendees at the New York celebration of the life of Ken “Professor” Philmore
Attendees at the New York celebration of the life of Ken “Professor” Philmore

Just listen to Pro’s composition Pan By Storm as delivered by “Designer”.  The New York funk and R&B markers are all up in there. Clearly following James Brown’s lead of “What ever I do it’s got to be funky.” So when “Pro” unleashed his classic and now-historical arrangement of Pan By Storm with Fonclaire Steel Orchestra in 1991, it was a continuation of what he had been cultivating and fermenting in New York in the 1980s.

This writer had the honor of knowing and competing against “Professor”. He was gracious in victory and even more so in defeat.

Pan Evolution performs at the New York celebration of  the life of Ken “Professor” Philmore
Pan Evolution performs at the New York celebration of  the life of Ken “Professor” Philmore

“Pro” had to be very proud ‘looking down on’ the wide range of people who came out in his honor, having a festive time at the New York celebration of his life - especially the generations of Sonatas players. “Pro” touched a lot of lives in New York.

He was a whole lot of love.

See multiple memories on Ken “Professor” Philmore

   Harmony with Ken “Professor” Philmore as arranger

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