The “Pan In Education” project provides a number of beneficial
educational tools that without a doubt, will significantly impact
the development of the Pannist of the future, and, by extension, the
growth of the Steelband. In very recent times, the pannists’
exclusive dependence on learning music by rote has been slowly but
surely losing it’s appeal, and many steelpan players are beginning
to embrace a more formal and structured approach. There is no
denying that there are tremendous benefits to learning music by ear.
From a personal standpoint, the early exposure to ear training in
the panyards, did wonders for me when I embarked on my initial
studies at Northern Illinois University. Those aural skills exams
that have come to be so feared in educational institutions the world
over were not as intimidating as they could have been, thanks to the
lessons learned in the panyard.
Additionally, the retention skills that many of Trinidad and
Tobago’s pannists possess, is arguably, unparalleled in the world of
music. Yet, I have come to realize, more and more, that the ideal
system of learning music should be one that couples both the rote
and so-called formal way of learning.
While it is an amazing feat that so many of our “unschooled”
arrangers can produce many works of great intricacy, I believe that
the process of turning out more of these talents can be expedited if
the “guessing game” that often occurs with pannists who are not
familiar with even the basic rudiments of music from an early age,
could be usurped with a more direct and structured music education.
I have often observed that the Steelpan arranger is many times
revered as a musical God in the panyard, when in actuality he or she
may really just have an understanding of the theory of music no
higher than a sophomore music student in college. Of course, this
statement should not in anyway be seen as an effort to discredit the
rich and wonderful natural talent that exists in our country, but
should be viewed as reinforcement to the notion that if that raw
promise were blended with exposure to music education, even higher
levels of musicianship could be attained.
“Pan in Education” appeals to musicians of varying levels.
Regardless of if one has only an elementary understanding of playing
the instrument, or has been playing since “Corbeaux Jack” was a boy
in short pants, this program can be relevant.
While all of the compositions are by one composer, Mark Loquan,
each composition is varied enough so as not to allow any sort of
predictability to step in. Such stalwarts as Jit Samaroo
and Pelham Goddard have contributed arrangements; while at the same
time some of the young lions like Seion Gomez, Kareem Brown and
Amrit Samaroo have an opportunity to have their voices appreciated
as well. It is rather refreshing to know that the project provides
students of the art form with a structural analysis of each
arrangement, and they in turn, can use their eyes to hear and
assimilate varying approaches to modulation and/or orchestration.
Indeed, this opportunity to look into the sometimes very private and
guarded musical world of a Steelband arranger is invaluable.
Of special significance is the inclusion of a biographical link.
In the world of Jazz, musicians would be laughed at and chastised if
they did not have so much as a basic understanding of the
contributions of Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane et
Having traveled as a soloist and clinician to many educational
institutions in Trinidad and in the USA, I am often surprised at how
unfamiliar instructors and students are with respect to the pioneers
of the Steelpan, and what strides are being made, or not being made
for that matter, in the contemporary Steelband world.
Excerpts of the original vocal versions of the songs are wisely
included. Many arrangers will testify that the lyric of a song acts
as a strong influencing factor as to the direction a Steelband
Analyses of the level of difficulty of the various arrangements
is included in the package and also present are suggestions of what
lessons can be learned from the arrangements e.g. how to modulate,
familiarity with key centers, musical form. Once again the designers
of the program took great pains to insure that education in a
variety of facets was a priority.
It would be of some value, I humbly suggest, that in addition to
the marvelous existing product, follow up versions of this program
could include compositions by more than one composer and also
explore pieces outside of the calypso idiom (maybe an approach to
arranging classical music, transcriptions, Indian musics, etc).
There exists a degree of sameness as to the structural direction of
the arrangements i.e. intro, melody, variation, jam, outro, that
could breed a sense of conformity rather than creativity.
Neither time nor space really allows for the wonderful
superlatives or the type of in depth analysis that a program like
this truly deserves. The mere existence of “Pan in Education” the
future of the Steelband is brighter. Congratulations to everyone
responsible for the birth of this project.