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An April Affair:
Steelband Jamboree
Takes Center Stage in St. Thomas, USVI


News Release




St. Thomas, USVI – The 2008 carnival celebrations in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands officially get underway on April 6, and really take flight with nightly events from April 12—26.  Major international soca and calypso artists such as Bunji Garlin, Byron Lee and The Dragonaires and many more will be part of this year’s events.  There are at least two steelband components to the celebration, one in the main parade and the other in the April 20 steelband jamboree. 

Speaking with When Steel Talks recently, Caswil Callender, Executive Director of The Virgin Islands Carnival Committee, Inc. said that steelpan was first introduced to the island back in 1949, and carnival started in 1953.  Members of Antigua’s legendary Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra came to St. Thomas for the celebrations and some settled on the island, and began teaching the artform which proved immensely popular, to school children and all who were interested.  Later on, a judge from the island’s territorial court at the time decided that the artform should be even more entrenched within the culture, came up with a plan, and oversaw the institution of steelpan instruction in schools.  It was from there that steelpan in St. Thomas truly mushroomed into the movement that it is today, with most of the island’s educational establishments, both private and public now fielding at least one steel orchestra.  They generally feature about twenty players, some as young as six years old, and take part in the Steelband Jamboree that is an integral component of the island’s annual carnival celebrations.

An average of twenty steelbands  take part in the jamboree and perform in close proximity to an audience of thousands, who include music lovers, visitors to the island, and of course proud family members of the young pannists from the schools.  Rising Stars steel orchestra, the band evolving out of the initiative begun by the territorial courts’ judge so many years ago, is one of St. Thomas’ larger, well-known bands featuring as many as one hundred steelpan musicians.  They will also be showcased in the jamboree on April 20.  This year thirteen bands have signed up to date, with the remainder expected to come onboard in the next few days.  Those who have confirmed their participation are Ulla Muller School, Gomez Elementary School, Sibbilly Elementary School, Cancryn Middle School, Bertha Boschulte Middle School, St. John Pan Dragons, Charlotte Amalie High School, Eudora Kean High School, Rising Stars, Rock City Special Ed., Phoenix Sounds, St. Thomas All Stars and Pan In Motion.  Collectively, they will thrill the thousands fortunate enough to experience St. Thomas’ steelband jamboree, which starts at five in the afternoon, and continues for about five hours.

For those who are thinking about making the trip to the island for this year’s carnival celebrations including the steelband jamboree, Virgin Islands Carnival Committee’s Executive Director Caswil Callender says that visitors will delight in the warm temperatures of eighty-five degrees, the friendliness and hospitality of the islanders, and the multitude of carnival celebration shows and related events.  According to the executive director, years ago carnival in St. Thomas was celebrated in September during the Labor Day weekend, but that period falls within the island’s rainy season, and with the wet weather throwing a damper on events, the carnival celebration was moved to April.  For those who love the sea and/or are boating enthusiasts, they will find they can have a fabulous vacation both on sea via boat races, and on land, with Carnival celebrations, which have been described as the largest in the Virgin Islands.  As a plus, Callender also reminded that naturally, citizens of the United States can visit St. Thomas – a US territory – without a passport and that the US dollar is the official currency.  

Callender proudly added that no one is left out of the island’s festivities, and that there is something for everyone, from all walks of life; even those in the hospitals, and the shut-ins, those who cannot come out to carnival, have it brought to them.  Shows go on the road and performers ‘take the carnival to them’ so they may also experience the joy of their country’s annual celebrations.  And you can too, when you make St. Thomas USVI part of your itinerary this April.

contact: Caswil Callender, Executive Director,  The Virgin Islands Carnival Committee, Inc. | email:

contact -- When Steel Talks | email:

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