Wayne Bowman
Friday, 22 July 2011 02:15

Pan in Education Review

Congratulations on a fantastic project. I made my first visit to Trinidad last May and I asked Alvin Daniell to encourage the dissemination of shorter compositions for smaller steel bands marketed for the US institution-based pan market. PIE is a lot like what I was asking for. Your compositions are all very good. We get arrangements from some of T&T's best pan arrangers who aren't Boogsie, Holman, Professor, or Greenidge (all four of whom have distribution in the US, but others like Seion Gomez and E. Pouchet do not). I got my copy last week and have been studying it. I am excited to have the opportunity to perform some of these tunes with my steel band at Richland College and will promote this at my Carnival of Steel festival in Dallas on Saturday April 22nd, 2006. So far, my favourites are Fire and Steel and Identity.

Although I have only had this for a week and am still perusing it, I have a few initial comments about the project:

1) This is priced way too low for the American market. We are accustomed to paying $35-$75 for fully scored arrangements. Although there are vast savings that you can pass on to the consumer by selling a digital version of the sheet music instead of printed hard copy, you have 13 fine compositions/arrangements on this set which comes out to a cost to the consumer of $3 US per tune. With all of the extras that you have included, such as the audio clips, lyrics, biographical information, audio recordings, etc., you deserve a lot more $$$ for this. If you do more of these, you could put 4 or 5 short tunes on an enhanced CD with the scores and still command $50 and I promise that no one here would scoff at the price. I think the same would hold true for the European market as well.

2) All of the compositions are relatively long for what US school/college steel bands typically play. Bands here are used to playing road march style arrangements that can be repeated to stretch them out. The problem with the US system is that it is still in its infancy. Although there are easily over 700 school/college steel bands in this country, most people playing in these small pan sides are new to the instrument, though they may have experience in another instrument. Even with the better college/university steel bands, there is still a considerable learning curve because many of these students are playing pan for the first time (not to mention the instructors, the majority of whom in this country are not hardcore pan players) and are having to learn the layouts (which are counterintuitive to the linear keyboard percussion instruments many of them are already accustomed to). This is starting to change as more and more elementary,! middle, and high school steel band programs are sprouting up every day. Another problem is that the steel band is still considered extra-curricular to most music programs and are not given adequate rehearsal time, especially for students who are new to the instrument and need time to learn it. I know that for me to pull off performing Identity with my students that will take them the better part of the entire semester to learn the tune.

That said, PIE offers everything to raise the standard. The learning objectives help the instructor present the information in a logical, systematic way

Although the tunes are longer than what we typically play, they have all of the elements that one would find in typical Panorama arrangements, but on a smaller scale. PIE is a fantastic and economical collection of arrangements to prepare the developing steel band to take on the masterworks of Trinidad's Panorama arrangers.

When I met with Alvin Daniell last year, one of the points I made to him was that there is a lack of arrangements from Trinidad available to the US market for smaller pan sides. A large band in this country has 30 players. Most school/college-based steel bands have 2-4 leads, 1 double tenor, 1-2 double seconds, 1-2 triple guitar or cello, and sometimes 1 6-bass (many of them are using electric bass guitars). An 8-10 piece pan side cannot do justice to a 10-minute long Panorama arrangement (even if they play it well, size does matter). I appreciate the fact that you have chosen small groups to work with on this project. That is exactly what has been needed in this market for quite some time.

I'm really glad that you scored these arrangements in cut time. Certain graduates of a certain university in Ohio have a nasty habit of writing arrangements in 4/4 time. That works fine if you are a trained percussionist. Otherwise, it can be confusing to anyone else. Also, I'm really glad you included .pdf versions of the tune. It saved me the trouble of having to reformat the page layout on Finale to make the chart fit within the printable margins.
On the next project, don't be afraid to include even simpler tunes (or tunes that are convertible for different ability levels). Some of the best selling pan arrangements in this country are the tunes from the Our Boys Pan Progress CD. The K-12 school programs are just starting to get into pan, and I think that they will eventually be the biggest market in the years to come.

PIE is the bargain of the century. It is obvious that an inordinate amount of work went into the production of this set and again I congratulate you and everyone else involved on a job well done. Good luck with the project and I will do all that I can to help promote it stateside.

Joe Perea
Director of Instrumental Music
Richland College
Dallas, TX