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Tribute To Women In Pan - 2005


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Kristen Jones
Musical Director, Pan Masters Steel Orchestra


"I am both proud and humbled to be a part of the steel pan community.  Though I worried at first about how I would fit in as a white American woman, I've been welcomed with open arms by steelbands in Trinidad, DC and New York.  I'm thankful to B.P. Renegades for my first Panorama experience and for welcoming me back each year I'm able to make it "home."  I'm also thankful to Pan Masters for affording me the opportunity to arrange music for them, and for really becoming a second family to me." 


Kristen Jones grew up near Albany, NY in a musical family.  She studied piano and cello up through high school, and was principal cellist in the prestigious Empire State Youth Orchestra.  She attended summer music studies at the Tanglewood Institute, Hartwick College, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  She always assumed she would eventually become a professional cellist--until she discovered pan!  That was at Oberlin College, in Ohio. Since 1980, Oberlin has had a student-run steelband--first called the Can Consortium, now called Oberlin Steel.  Kristen took the "Introduction to Steel Drums" class that the band offered, and subsequently joined the band. In her sophomore year (1997), she and three other students went to Trinidad. They played with the Renegades Steel Orchestra for Panorama, and that experience pretty much sealed the deal for Kristen (this was the year of Renegades' historic "three-peat" win).  The pan jumbie was born!

She returned to Trinidad the next year and stayed for a semester to study at the University of the West Indies.  She took classes in pan performance, pan arranging, drumming, mas & carnival, and Caribbean literature.  Upon returning to Oberlin, she decided to design her own independent major in Ethnomusicology with a focus on Caribbean music and steel pan.  She became the musical director of the steelband and began to arrange music for them, and also taught the group's beginning pan class to other college students.  She graduated from Oberlin in 1999.

Kristen was first introduced to Pan Masters Steel Orchestra in the summer of 1997, when she was working in the DC area.  She played with the group for DC Carnival that year.  After graduating from Oberlin, she moved to Maryland and joined the group on double seconds.  Shortly thereafter, she began arranging selections for both the stageside and the Carnival roadside.  Her arrangement of "Dulahin" won Pan Masters the Judge's Award for Steelband Performance at DC Carnival 2002.  In 2003, Kristen was elected Steelband Coordinator.  She wrote her first original piece for steelband in honor of Pan Masters' 20th Anniversary, which will be premiered at their April 10th concert.  She also produced the group's latest CD and arranged many of the selections on it.  The CD, titled On de Road, will be released at the concert as well.


Though she has had a little bit of "formal" instruction in arranging for steelband, Kristen learned the most by observing the masters of the art form at work with bands in Trinidad and New York.  Specifically, she credits Jit Samaroo, Clive Bradley, Robert Greenidge, Len "Boogsie" Sharpe and Ray Holman.  She has also been lucky to work with several talented arrangers within Pan Masters, who both nurtured her development as an arranger, and who were so accepting as to take a chance on this American girl to see what she could do!  These arrangers include Lennard Jack Jr, Roger Greenidge, Marc Anatol, Robert "Bullit" Thwaites, Sherwin & Shawn Thwaites. 


Kristen has continued her pilgrimages to Trinidad Panorama.  She played with Renegades in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2005.  She has also attended Ellie Mannette¹s summer pan workshop in WV, and performs regularly in Brooklyn Panorama with bands such as Despers USA, Pantonic, and Moods.

In addition to performing, Kristen is committed to teaching others to play pan and making them aware of the instrument¹s rich history and tradition.  She currently teaches the beginning group pan class at Pan Masters and also gives private instruction on pan and cello.  She did a month-long artist residency at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, OH where she taught nearly 80 children from ages 6-14 to play pan.  She has been a guest instructor at the University of Maryland summer arts camp and has given lectures on pan at Oberlin College and George Washington University.

In her non-performing life, Kristen is the general manager at House of Musical Traditions, a music store in Takoma Park, MD specializing in folk/acoustic instruments from around the world.


Related Links
Pan Masters In The Spotlight

Pan Masters Steel Orchestra 20th Anniversary Celebrations


© and Courtesy K. Jones

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March 7, 2005 

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