Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 8th 2013 Contents B6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, May 8, 2013
AND RAY FUNK
The second weekend in May brings hundreds of
pan students to the Virginia coast for beaches, fun,
sun, and great pan. The 11th annual PANorama
Caribbean Music Festival will be held on Friday
and Saturday at the 24th Street Oceanfront Park
and Virginia Beach Convention Centre, Virginia
The event is co-sponsored by the Virginia Arts
Festival and Beach events, and is one of a series of
summer weekend events held in the area.
The festival is hosted by the Virginia Rhythm
Project and over 25 high school, college, and com-
munity steelbands participate in the competition.
Founded in 2002, the festival is a must-attend event
for many steelbands and continues to be a major
draw for primary and secondary school pan sides in
the eastern half of the United States.
Besides the annual steelband competition, the fes-
tival features a performance by the host steelband,
the Virginia Rhythm Project. The band is the primary
force in pan music in Virginia and is directed by
The project is an after-school world percussion
and dance programme based in the Greater
Norfolk/Virginia Beach area of Virginia.
Founded in 1996, the project s mission is to bring
multicultural artistic excellence and education to the
youth and educators of northeastern Virginia but the
influence of the organisation has far exceeded these
geographic boundaries, now effectively encompassing
the Atlantic Coast and beyond.
The Virginia Rhythm Project is a multi-ethnic
world music programme comprised of steel band,
African drum and dance, and other Caribbean musical
genres. However, the steelpan element of the pro-
gramme, which is comprised of five ensembles, dom-
inates the curriculum.
The project began as an outgrowth of the Virginia
Arts Festival and was the brainchild of the Portsmouth
General Hospital Foundation. The not-for-profit
organisation sponsors arts programmes in Northeast
Virginia, an area which encompasses the cities of
Norfolk, Hampton, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach.
The project is structured as five individual steel-
bands with a sixth group---the All-Stars---which is
an audition-only ensemble comprised of the top
players from each of the five feeder steelbands. These
bands have regular rehearsals and perform all year
The All-Stars are the main touring band and have
performed extensively throughout the US and Canada
with internationally-known recording artists such
as Gladys Knight and at high-profile academic events
such as the 2005 Percussive Arts Society International
Convention. The ensembles have also been featured
on several regional radio broadcasts.
The pan ensembles were initially added to the
project as an afterschool activity designed to keep
at-risk youths and juveniles occupied and out of
According to former director Dr Anthony Hailey:
"We start with the school year and get the kids going
"Each one of them is an after-school rehearsal
and we felt that was very crucial for the middle
school groups. And because they re reaching puberty,
a lot of them go home and their parents don t get
home until five or six o clock, so we wanted to make
sure to occupy that time in-between school and
parental supervision at home."
The Virginia Rhythm Project steelbands, including
the elite All-Stars steelband, are open to all socio-
economic levels and require only a brief audition
process with a primary focus on rhythmic capabil-
The project is a community-building organisation
that is interested in positively shaping the lives of
its ensemble members in the long term. This is
nowhere more apparent than on the band s Web site
m-project-main---which lists the names
and institutions of college-bound band
members alongside the regular ensemble
The steelband programme has been run
for the last few years by Subero, a native
Trinidadian, who is a leading pan educator
that earned a graduate degree in steelpan
at Northern Illinois University and a bach-
elors degree in music from University of
the West Indies, St Augustine.
She is a longtime member of Exodus and
was the winner in the soloist category at
the World Steelband Music Festival in 2000.
This year s festival will be Subero s swan
song as she will be moving on to the Bal-
timore/Washington, DC, area later this sum-
mer to pursue other opportunities.
Subero will be replaced as artistic director
of the Virginia Rhythm Project by current
assistant director Dave Longfellow.
Longfellow had the fortune of growing
up in Morgantown, West Virginia, and from
an early age became mesmerised by the
pan-making skills of Ellie Mannette.
Longfellow has since devoted his life to
pan and has made the sojourn down to
Trinidad several times to play with Rene-
gades as recently as Carnival 2013.
In addition to his work with the Virginia
Rhythm Project, Longfellow leads his own
small steelband and has recorded two
The festival will feature a series of nation-
ally and internationally known adjudicators
who will offer workshops and judge the
steelband competition. These include Liam
Teague, Gary Gibson, Jonathan Scales, Yuko
Asada, and Leonard Moses. The test piece
for the mass band performance held on the
festival s opening night was written by
The renowned ADLIB Steel Orchestra
from Long Island, New York, will headline
the festival on both Friday and Saturday
They have repeatedly won Brooklyn car-
nival throughout the past decade and are
the current champions. This will be the
band s first trip to Virginia Beach and will
be a great opportunity for pan fans to hear
the work of the group s brilliant young
arranger and leader Andre White.
Also appearing on the Saturday night
concert of the festival is the Jonathan Scales
Fourestra. Scales and his band are the barn-
storming group who are constantly on the
road, tirelessly bringing a unique pan-combo
style to all corners of the world. The band
is about to release their fourth album in
All concerts of the PANorama Caribbean
Music Festival are free and open to the pub-
lic. The atmosphere is relaxed and the event
is truly enjoyable, giving the public a chance
to see and hear the growing excellence of
pan programmes in the region.
Students flock to Virginia for steelpan festival
One of the ensembles of the
Virginia Rhythm Project
during a performance.
PHOTO: KATHRYN RINKER
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