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SPOTLIGHT - When Steel Talks - Special


The formation of many a Steelband has historically evolved from another existing band.  Such is the case of Pan Masters.  Some of the founding members of Pan Masters had previously performed with the Trinidad and Tobago Steelband of Washington, D.C.  In May 1985, these individuals decided to chart their musical aspirations in another direction and this resulted in the birth of Pan Masters Steel Orchestra.  The original members include Frankie Balthazar, St Clair Balthazar, Roland Barnes, Robert Barnes, Patrick Belle, Don Cumberbatch, Malcolm John, Lennard Jack, Jr., Stephen Landrigan, Joseph Lewis and Brian Solomon. In May 2005, Pan Masters Steel Orchestra will celebrate 20 years of providing Steelband music in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The band has traveled north as far as Brooklyn, New York and south to North Carolina. The band is based in North Brentwood, MD.

Its accomplishments include being adjudged the 1993 through 1998 Steelband Champion in the Baltimore Panorama Competition; recipient of the judges award for outstanding performance at the 1993 through 2002 and 2004 D.C. Caribbean Carnival celebrations on Georgia Avenue; 1998 champion in the New York  J’Ouvert competition: several command performances at the Bluemont Concert Series and the inaugurations of former President Bill Clinton and former Mayor Marion Barry.  The band was also featured on the CD “Bon Appetit” by Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, which won the 2003 Grammy for Best Children’s Album.

Over the years Pan Masters has had the opportunity to expose Caribbean culture to residents in several areas in Virginia.  Whether it was to showcase the stilt dancers such as Billah and Shacomba, or the Caribbean Folk Dancers, Pan Masters was instrumental in bringing the Caribbean to such places as Winchester, Warrenton, Leesburg, Culpeper, Luray, Lansdowne and Reston.   Other opportunities afforded Pan Masters included several performances at Caribbean Summer in the Park, Prince George’s County Bicentennial Celebrations, Kettering Founder’s Day Parade, Hispanic Festival, Potomac Riverfest, District of Columbia Parks and Recreation, City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation, Maryland National Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery County Ethnic Festival, Smithsonian Institute, the Cherry Blossom Parade and Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA.

Another notable accomplishment is providing opportunities for future pannists to develop an appreciation for the art form.  To this end, Pan Masters has successfully conducted classes and workshops.  The success of this program can best be noted by the fact that some of the graduates have joined the Pan Masters.  Pan Masters has attributed its success to a strong belief in the family, a strong and determined group of musical arrangers, and an experienced administrative and promotional organization, which places equal merit on quality performers and good clientele relationships.

Pan Masters has expanded its community programming to include an annual “Pan Jamboree” which brings together Steelbands in an open atmosphere similar to the open air pan performances held in the Caribbean. Local groups include Pan Masters Steel Orchestra, Positive Vibration, East of the River Steelband and Tropical Ensemble. Out of town groups include CASYM, Pantonic and Despers USA from New York. Additionally, Pan Masters have increased their involvement in the DC Caribbean Carnival wherein they organized and managed the Annual Calypso Monarch Competition.

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Pan Masters Steel Orchestra 20th Anniversary Celebrations




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