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Setting up the Steel Band - Organising the Project

Now you have your instruments, the space to store them and run the classes you are ready to organise the project.

A steel band set up in school time through curriculum-linked music classes can be easier to manage and sustain than an extra-curricular group or after school club although both have benefits. The following are useful tried and tested methods to start the ball rolling:

Introduce Steel Pans to Your School
An all-school presentation and performance by experienced pan tutor musicians will help to generate interest and inspire participation. A 15-30 minute slot at morning assembly is enough to introduce the range of instruments, explain the history and origins, demonstrate the music styles and answer questions.

Organise Taster Workshops
Taster workshops allow class groups to try out the different instruments, so those most likely to benefit from further development can be identified. Timetable the last session after school for your music staff, so they too can enjoy the experience. CultureMix offers tutors for have-a-go workshops and INSET days.
More about workshops.

Set up a Weekly Class or After-School Workshop
Once the participants are signed up, it is wise to bring in an experienced tutor to start the process, at least until your music staff are confident they can take it on.

Teaching steel pan music can appear easy to music educators and to some extent it is within the capabilities of most to teach at an elemental level. The challenge is developing a repertoire-hungry group to reach its full potential.

Hear and see the different steel pan sounds of the tenor, double seconds, guitars, cellos and bass in a RASPO demonstration video of Quando Quando.

A good classical composer or jazz arranger can transfer their skills to the steel percussion orchestra with satisfactory results. A steel pan tutor musician has the benefit of experience and a natural passion for the instrument that will positively benefit the group.

Progress and Development Tips
Although teaching steel pan music is similar to arranging music for an orchestra, typical calypso rhythms can be more challenging to master as they are generally taught orally.

There is a great benefit in training one of your music department staff so they can support extra-curricular activities such as performances and additional rehearsals.
At CultureMix, school and college music teachers attend workshops where they learn the fundamental rudiments of calypso arrangements and rhythms from our experienced tutors.
Tutor training workshops.

By teaching the group in a similar way to a classical orchestra, you can develop a dynamic repertoire in a disciplined yet fun environment.

What Type of Music?
Any kind of music can be played on steel pan instruments, including pop, reggae, jazz and soul. Classical music works well as the steel pan is also an orchestral instrument. You can never fail with calypso, which steel pans were originally created to play.

The repertoire should be eclectic and dynamic, and include songs chosen by the players to maintain their interest. RASPO Steel Orchestra plays arrangements of Bizet, Beyonce, Tchaikovsky, Lord Kitchener (the 'Grand Master' of calypso), Beethoven, Michael Jackson and much more.

And Finally...
Listen to steel pan CDs, watch DVDs and YouTube clips. Go to live steel band performances and events like the annual UK Steelband Championship 'Panorama' on August Bank Holiday Saturday launching the Notting Hil Carnival weekend. Plus, visit places like Carnival Village venue The Tabernacle which hosts regular steel pan music events and is the home of Mangrove Steel Band. RASPO hosts regular outdoor concerts in and around Berkshire. More...

You can purchase RASPO CD's 'RASPO Live!' and 'RASPO Rhythms' to hear a range of steel pan music from classical to calypso.
Click here and complete the enquiry form.

What is a steel band?
Adapted from the original published article 'Carnival Fever - How to set up a steel pan ensemble' written by Mary Genis for Classroom Music Magazine (Rhinegold - Autumn 2009/10).

Handling steel pans.

RASPO player Kisha graces the cover of Classroom Music

RASPO player Kisha graces the cover of Classroom Music

"I would highly recommend CultureMix who offer a quality and personal service."

Sarah Cooper - head teacher

Oxford Gardens Primary School

Set up a Steel Band

Frontline WOMAD

The steel band starts by learning the basic techniques moving on to scales and arpeggios then simple arrangements building a repertoire of music for future performances.

Pan in Education

CultureMix teaches steel pan to children in school

Working with education authorities, music services and music hubs across the region we set up, develop and establish sustainable steel band projects in schools.

Our schools education department has grown exponentially since 2003.

With an effective in-house tutor training programme and increased demand, CultureMix now has a team of five experienced tutors who deliver First Access - curriculum based weekly music lessons, Gifted and Talented workshops, and GCSE Music and after school clubs to dozens of primary and secondary schools.