Born in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, Khion D.J. De Las has emerged as a musical force of nature in the world of Steelpan performance.
Khion De Las holds a Masters in Music degree from Northern Illinois University (NIU) where he focused primarily on Steelpan Performance, some Ethnomusicological Research, Conducting and World Music. He also holds a B.A. Music (hons) degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine campus. With an extensive background in steel band orchestral playing, “Khadence” as Khion is popularly known, was a member of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, Southern Marines Steel Orchestra, Shades in Steel, Fonclaire, and Phase II Pan Groove, to name a few. For many years Khion arranged music for steel bands in both the Junior Panorama and the National Panorama competitions, and has had these bands rank highly in each of these competitions.
At the completion of his B.A., Khion was given the Beryl McBurnie award for the Best All Round Student in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at UWI. While at the university, he composed scales and exercises for the steelpan, which were published in the 2011-2012 Steelpan Scales and Exercises book at that university.
At a very early age his career as a performer, songwriter and composer began. Khion was introduced to the piano at age 5, and began playing the Steelpan a few months later. Considered a prodigy, this aspiring young musician gradually added nine other instruments to his expanding repertoire. One of his teachers, Mrs. Cynthia lee Mack, discovered his immense talent and helped him develop his voice by enlisting him in the school’s many choirs. He was then awarded Most Outstanding Choir Member and Musician and later further developed his vocal abilities by studying voice with Jessel Murray and joining the UWI Arts Chorale.
Not being content with music alone, Khion explored his interest in acting, dance choreography and music consulting. Khion became heavily involved in Theatre arts having played both leading and chorus roles in many musicals such as Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, The Newsies, Scrooge, Treasure Island and Pirates of Penzance. He was also the dance and fight scenes choreographer for Newsies and a music and stage assistant for Peter Pan. Mr. De Las has travelled to many countries to sing, dance and play his instruments. These include South Korea, Costa Rica, Guyana, Venezuela and Martinique to name a few. He hopes to soon become a lecturer at the University level, educating students about the Steelpan and its origins.
Apart from being an individual steelpan lessons teacher at NIU, De Las’ composition skills have risen to a new level, writing solo pieces for the steel pan, as well as a piece for Steelpan quartet and other large ensemble compositions. Additionally, Mr. De Las has gained experience in Middle Eastern, Afro-pop and Gamelan music with membership in each of those World Music Ensembles. As a member of both the NIU Concert Chorale and NIU World Steelband, he wrote and conducted an arrangement for both of those ensembles for the 2012 fall concert. As a conductor, Mr. De Las has been the music director of the Phi Mu Alpha Men’s Fraternity Choir for the past year.
While at NIU, Khion frequently conducted the NIU Steelband at various on and off campus performances, touring with the Steelband to different states and schools. Repertoire he has included: “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edward Greig, “Symphony No. 4 Op. 90 "Italian" Mvt. IV” by Mendelsohn, and an original composition for Steelpan by Dr. Jeannine Remy, an NIU Alumnus, entitled “The Renewal”. As an arranger, Khion has been privileged to arrange music for various genres for the NIU Steelband, and was also included as a drummer in the band.
As one of the Graduate Assistants for the Steelpan studio at NIU, Mr. De Las was also one of the directors of the NIU All University Steelband, which is a group open to any faculty member of the university. While co-directing this group, his duties included helping people not familiar with the steelpan, to learn how to play the instrument as well as educating members about the history of the steelpan. Mr. De Las transcribed, arranged and conducted various genres of music for this steelband.
Improvisation, Music Research, Launching Your Own Music Business, Chorale Arranging, Choral Conducting, Orchestral Conducting, Music History, Music Theory including Shenkerian Analysis and Jazz Piano Harmonies are other areas he has studied over the years, broadening his experience as a professional musician.
Currently Khion is an adjunct lecturer at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine, Trinidad, where he teaches individual Steelpan lessons, He directs the Student Jazz Ensemble and Co-directs the UWI Steel Ensemble. Recently Khion received an award from BPTT Pan in School's Coordinating Council for his sterling contribution to the Steelpan fraternity through both Composing and Arranging.