The formation of many a Steelband has historically evolved from another existing band. Such is the case of Pan Masters. Some of the founding members of Pan Masters had previously performed with the Trinidad and Tobago Steelband of Washington, D.C. In 1985, these individuals decided to chart their musical aspirations in another direction and this resulted in the birth of Pan Masters Steel Orchestra. The original members include Frankie Baltazar, St Clair Baltazar, Roland Barnes, Robert Barnes, Patrick Belle, Don Cumberbatch, Malcolm John, Lennard Jack, Stephen Landrigan, Joseph Lewis and Brian Solomon. The band has traveled north as far as Brooklyn, NY and south to North Carolina.
The first major undertaking was to purchase equipment. Some members had their personal steelpans. However, a major financial undertaking and sacrifice was necessary to secure instruments from Vince Hernandez in New York and local purchases from a Wheaton Music store. Our marketing wizard Rollo found jobs to ensure that our financial responsibilities were not compromised. We sacrificed and paid for all equipment before any personal disbursements were addressed. In fact, the success of this plan was a further enticement to embark on a similar plan to purchase our own transportation when we realized that truck rental was cost prohibitive and at times very unreliable.
Although challenged by many obstacles, the band has survived and continues to grow stronger and expand its focus. Pan Masters' accomplishments include being adjudged the 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 Steelband Champion in the Baltimore Panorama Competition; recipient of the judges award for outstanding performance at the 1993 through 2002, 2004 and 2006 D.C. Caribbean Carnival celebrations on Georgia Avenue; 1998 champion in the New York J'Ouvert competition; several command performances at the Bluemont Concert Series; and the only participating steelband at the inaugurations of President Bill Clinton and Mayor Marion Barry. Pan Masters continues to participate in community outreach performances at local schools, nursing homes, hospitals and churches.
The band also has the distinction of being featured on the children's music CD "Bon Appetit!" by local duo Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, which won the 2003 Grammy for Best Children's Album.
Pan Masters has been fortunate to enjoy a permanent practice site for the past several years in North Brentwood, Maryland. Commencing in a basement in Kettering, the band practice venue was moved several times primarily due to economics and the need to comply with the local ordinances governing the playing of music after certain hours of the evening. This challenge coupled with insufficient "gig" opportunities in the Caribbean community made it a necessity for members to embark on a major marketing effort to foster our further growth and development. The band has been blessed with some very talented musical arrangers and composers such as Marc Anatol, Patrick Belle, Lennard Jack, Joseph Lewis, Pete St.Cyr, Robert Thwaites, Sherwin & Shawn Thwaites, Ken "Professor" Philmore, Roger Greenidge, Kristen Jones, Adam Grise, Paul Arnold, Karen Lee, Alysia Isong and Getonia Vincent. Pan Masters is well-known in the area for the high quality of its music ranging from calypso and reggae to jazz, pop, Latin and classical.
Pan Masters also acknowledges the artistic creations of the many pan tuners who worked diligently with us not only to create the instruments but also to help us maintain the quality sound that we have grown accustomed to hearing. Special recognition to Vince Hernandez for providing us with our initial set of instruments, the late Michael Enoch, Denzil Fernandez, Bertram Kellman, Herman "Guppy" Brown, Ellie Mannette, Elton Williams, Emmanuel "Jack" Riley, Learie Harrigan and Billy Sheeder for upgrading and maintaining our equipment.
One of our major contributors who provided opportunities for The Pan Masters Steel Orchestra to expand its credentials was Peter Dunning and the Bluemont Concert Series. Over the years we have had the opportunity to bring Caribbean culture to residents in several areas in Virginia such as Winchester, Warrenton, Leesburg, Culpeper, Luray, Lansdowne and Reston. Other opportunities afforded Pan Masters included several performances at Caribbean Summer in the Park, Hispanic Festival, Potomac Riverfest, City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation, Montgomery County Ethnic Festival, Smithsonian Institute, the Cherry Blossom Parade, Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, the Institute of Musical Traditions concert series, and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington.
Another notable accomplishment is providing opportunities for future pannists to develop an appreciation for the art form. To this end, Pan Masters has successfully conducted classes and workshops, which were spearheaded by Marc Anatol, Natalie Davidson, Lennard Jack, Arlene Farrier, Kristen Jones, Adam Gris, Ayesha Morris, Greg Smith, Adam Grise and Sherwin Thwaites. The success of this program can best be noted by the fact that some of the graduates have joined Pan Masters, and many of the band's current players are some extremely talented young people. Pan Masters has attributed its success to a strong belief in the family, a talented and determined group of musical arrangers, and an experienced administrative and promotional organization, which places equal merit on quality performers and good clientele relationships.
Pan Masters has produced four recordings, the latest of which was released in 2005 ("On De Road"). 2005 also marked the 20th Anniversary of Pan Masters. They celebrated this occasion with a concert featuring world-renowned pan performer, composer and arranger Robert Greenidge. A DVD of this concert is the latest addition to the band's releases.
Pan Masters has expanded its community programming to include an annual "Pan Jamboree" which brings together Steelbands in the area in an open atmosphere similar to the open air pan performances held in the Caribbean. Local groups include Pan Masters Steel Orchestra, Positive Vibrations, Tropical Ensemble, DC Pan Jammers and St. Veronica's. Out of town groups include CASYM, Despers USA, and Pantonic (all from New York ), and Rhythm Project All Stars from Virginia. Pan Masters also hosts an annual Junior Pan Solo Competition to encourage young pannists throughout the area to strive for excellence. Additionally, Pan Masters has increased its involvement in the DC Caribbean Carnival by organizing and hosting the annual DC Calypso Monarch Competition.
Make a Donation to Pan Masters:
Are you a fan of Pan Masters Steel Orchestra? Want to support us so we can continue to give you great steelband music for years to come? Your donation can assist us by helping to pay for major overhead costs such as panyard rent, pan tuning, truck maintenance, recording costs and much more! Please note, we are not a non-profit organization (i.e. your donation is not tax-deductible at this time), but we appreciate your generous donation all the same!