Pantonic Steel Orchestra featured at Columbia University Graduate Course

August 05, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
New York- A ten-man contingent of New York champion Pantonic Steel Orchestra journeyed to Columbia University to perform, showcase and conduct a workshop on the steelpan instrument to a class of graduate level students. The workshop was part of the Graduate School's "An Introduction To World Music" course. The course is being taught by Dr. Robert Stephens and is under the auspices of Columbia University's Teachers College.

In addition to performing a wide variety of music that demonstrated the versatility and skill set of the Pantonic musicians (from Paul McCartney's Long and Winding Road, to John Legend's Ordinary People), Pantonic's Patrick Hypolite explains the differences between the family of steelpan instruments. Their ranges, types, usages and tonal differences were shown and highlighted.

Following the question-and-answer session, the graduate students experimented with the steelpan instruments under the tutelage of the Pantonic musicians. For many of the teachers this was their first real encounter with steelpan instruments. It was a totally entertaining and educational experience for the participants who played and learned parts of a song on the instruments.

Many of the students participating in the graduate course are themselves music teachers within elite music programs at significant institutes of learning. Dr. Stephens felt that this class involving the steelpan instrument, was extremely important in terms of facilitating an added awareness and sensitivity to other cultures, and alternative ways of learning music. In particular Pantonic Steel Orchestra musicians demonstrated to the graduate level students, the strength of learning music thorough the oral tradition, and performing at a level that was equal to musicians who perform and learn music through traditional academic means, and sometimes with music sheets in front of them.

A common theme repeated by the students was that experiencing a steelband such as Pantonic first-hand, provides them with insight that they could take back to their own classrooms. They were also of the view that it equips them to better relate to their students in the future, who may have come through a similar experience and culture.