Steelband Panorama 2012


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Michelle Huggins-Watts - Defending Champion Arranger Speaks on Panorama 2012

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

by When Steel Talks

In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, steelpan musician, educator and  arranger  - Michelle Huggins-Watts , shares her visions and  overall thoughts on Panorama, its past, present and future...


“...I think that more doors will begin to open for women arrangers as a result of the victory..”  Michelle Huggins-Watts

WST - You are returning to panorama this year (2012) in a manner that you have never been in before - "Defending Panorama Champion". How does it feel?

Michelle Huggins Watts
Michelle Huggins-Watts

Michelle - “It is indeed a feeling of greater confidence now that I'm recognized as a winner but at the same time there is a bit more anxiety as a result of the accompanying expectations. This in turn causes me to work even harder in an effort to live up to the expectations of others. Quite a few individuals have asked the question "So what yuh coming with for us this year Michelle?" Pressure! (smile). Few may know this but my first Panorama title came in 1998 when I arranged 'Clear De Way' for the WoodTrin Steel Orchestra at the Junior Panorama competition.”

WST - For those in our global audience who are unfamiliar with your accomplishments, how long have you been arranging and what is you background in Pan?

Michelle - “My first opportunity to arrange music for the steel orchestra was for my alma mater St, Francois Girls' College on the occasion of the Schools' Steelband Music Festival in 1987 and 1989. Thanks to Mr. McDonald Redhead, our pan tutor, who asked me to assist him with the preparation for the competition. I then did stageside music for the T&TEC Power Stars from 1993 -1994. However, my first experience as a Panorama arranger came in the years 1994 and 1995 when T & TEC Power Stars decided to take a chance on me to work with them for the Panorama. I was then approached by Valley Harps in 2002 for the Steelband Music Festival and on hearing the arrangement of the calypso I did for that competition they asked me to arrange for Panorama of 2003. I've been with Valley Harps since then to present. Other bands I have arranged music for include:
Phase II Pan Groove
La Creole Pan Groove
Trinity College Pan Ensemble
WoodTrin (school steelband)

My journey into the steelband arena began at the St. Francois Girls' College when I joined the school's orchestra at the age of fourteen and made my first overseas trip to Canada with the band. I played until I left school after completing my Advanced Level exams then I became a member of T&TEC Power Stars as they were our (St. Francois) parent band so a few of us naturally gravitated towards Power Stars. In 1993 I became a member of ISCOTT Casablanca and toured Europe and USA then moved on to Phase II Pan Groove in 1998 where I made more overseas tours and served the band as secretary, section leader, captain, and assistant manager.

I have also lectured on the steelband artform at Springfield College in Tampa, Florida and conducted a few courses in Panorama arranging. Due to my passion for the artform both my undergraduate and post graduate studies were based on the steelband. ”

WST - Are you ready to defend? Is there an added pressure?

Michelle - “Yes I am indeed ready to defend but as mentioned earlier, the pressure is there, but well managed so far. ”

WST - Women all over the world gave a shout of "Yes!" when you won last year. Do you think that glass ceiling and other related barriers have been shattered for good - as relates to women arrangers, and maybe management positions, within steelpan music organizations?

Michelle - “Of course the victory would serve to empower female artisans in the steelband arena and help to bring the doubting Thomas's to accept the role of women in pan. It is pleasing to know that there has been a steady increase in women being given significant roles in bands even before my victory. However I think that more doors will begin to open for women arrangers as a result of the victory and I must add that at school level, when I go to adjudicate for Junior Panorama, many of the captains of mixed schools are girls. .”

WST - Valley Harps has chosen "Vibes" as their tune of choice for 2012. Why "Vibes"?

Michelle- “I listened to several of the offerings for this year's competition and 'Vibes' was the only one that gave me that drive and 'vibe' of excitement that I was looking for.”

WST -What are main elements you look for in a "Panorama tune?"

Michelle - “The main elements I look for in a Panorama tune are: rhythm, chords and chord progressions, theme - as this can impact on ideas for interpretation, melody.”

WST - What has changed about "Panorama" in the last few years?

Michelle - “The changes in Panorama that I have noted are:
- constant venue changes for the early stages of the competition.
- prize money.
- lack of player loyalty resulting in lots of pannists playing in several bands and therefore diluting the quality of service they give to a band.
- great youth population in bands.
- lots of female players.”

WST - If you had the power to change something in the panorama scene, what would that be?

Michelle - “I would make minor but effective changes to the adjudication score sheet rubric and the length of time it takes to get results at the preliminary stages of the competition. Also, I think it is imperative to have a standardization session for adjudicators as well as proper screening to facilitate the selection of competent adjudicators.”

WST - What are your three all-time favorite panorama arrangements?

Michelle - “My three all-time favourite arrangements.  Oh this is hard!  I have quite a few that I love but today I'll go with these:
1. Pan Rising - Phase II Pan Groove (Len 'Boogsie' Sharpe)
2. Misbehave - Phase II Pan Groove (Len 'Boogsie' Sharpe)
3. Woman On The Bass - All Stars (Leon 'Smooth' Edwards)”


Click for more on Michelle Huggins-Watts

Click for WST’s Trinidad and Tobago Panorama 2012 complete coverage

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