Commissioned by Michael Mizma and the San Jacinto College Central Steel Band, Phil Hawkins’ “The Pebbles” will be premiered on Friday, November 8 at 7:00 pm in the Slocomb Auditorium. Phil and Michelle Hawkins will join the SJCC Steel Band, Vocal Quintet and Chorale to perform the four movement piece. At 1:30 pm the same day, there will be a “Meet the Composer” session in the Monte Blue Music Building’s Corbin Recital Hall where Mr. Hawkins will discuss his composition.
Phil Hawkins is an accomplished jazz drummer and one of the leading innovators of music for the steelpan. As a percussionist and drummer he regularly travels throughout the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America to perform concerts, teach clinics and study percussion.
Michelle Hawkins is an award-winning choral director and music educator. Her groups consistently rank among the top vocal jazz ensembles in California and the country. Ms. Hawkins’ group from West Valley College, “Synchronicity,” has been named “Best Vocal Jazz Group” for 3 years in a row by Downbeat Magazine.
“Os Seixos” (The Pebbles) is a four movement composition for steel band and choir based on a story about a girl who finds some beautiful pebbles in a stream and is seduced into possessing them. In the process she discovers that her possession has consumed her and that she no longer appreciates her surroundings (nature) as she did before. It’s really a story about remaining in the moment, letting go of destructive habits and appreciating the beauty that surrounds us.
The music was inspired by a recent encounter with Brazilian composer and pianist Jovino Santos Neto. According to Hawkins, “Much of the music we find in the Caribbean and South America has the same African roots. In essence, it’s really the same music but with a wide variety of regional flavors. For this very reason, a steel band that would traditionally play calypso music, also sounds great playing Brazilian baion or pagode.” Os Seixos represents the first set of steel band compositions for Hawkins in nearly 7 years. “I’m thankful to have this opportunity to write some new music for Michael and the students at San Jacinto. It’s an honor to receive such a request and even more fun to hear it come to life with a great steel band. I hope you enjoy it!” – PH
Dear Steel Band,
I write this letter to sincerely thank you for the amazing musical experience this past weekend. During our preparation, I know that we had little time for grins and giggles due to the mountainous task that lay before us. Andy said it best: “We’re going to play what? All of this? This is too much!” Well, we proved him wrong for one simple reason: you dedicated yourselves to playing to the best of your ability, even beyond.
Ensembles require that all members contribute; an ensemble is only as strong as its weakest player. You all rose to the challenge and provided an important component to our musical success. Many of you performed at a much higher level than I think even you thought was possible.
I appreciate your trust in my leadership. We were prepared because you trusted me. You trusted my vision whether you fully understood it or not. Trust is one of the most important elements for a successful ensemble. My sole goal from the beginning of the semester was to make sure that the group was ready for Andy, who can be musically very finicky, when he arrived. Were we polished yet? No. But we were ready. Thank you for trusting me.
As I wax nostalgic about the concert I recall moments before our Saturday show. The ensemble energy, before we ever played a note, was spot on; the spiritual energy in the room was conducive to an amazing performance. Music is funny this way. You practice and practice and practice and then, almost imperceptibly, after notes have been learned, sonic relationships made, the expression begins to clarify. It is in this process of clarification when the spiritual nature of music can come to fruition. Spirituality in music is only possible with intense, dedicated and responsible preparation. In our long rehearsals with Andy, Mark and Relator, I was excited to hear the band calm down, settle in and let the music dictate what sounds we made and when to make those sounds, not just notes on a page. I heard the music transform from an academic endeavor of notes and counting into an expressive, spiritual manifestation of music at a very high level. Simply wonderful!
Considering that a third of our band was made up of novice players and most of our band is made up of inexperienced performers, the sonic result of our effort was professional. As Andy said, “The Passage” was intended to be played by professionals, not a school band with a bunch of beginners. I didn’t want to tell anyone, especially the newbies, that, from a musical standpoint, we only played difficult charts; we played advanced, professional-grade music at a professional level. Thinking about it now, I almost don’t believe it. But, alas, we have many recordings and videos that prove otherwise!
The love I have for all of you, for the band, for the music, may not always be evident. I know that I pushed and pushed each and every one of you throughout the semester. I push with love! For the future, please remember that my goal is always the same: I want the San Jacinto College Central Steel Band to only perform concerts that are of the highest quality. Mediocrity is for the bourgeois! I set the musical standard very high. I hope that you also share this vision of quality.
You are all now part of a family that began back in 1994, my first makeshift steel band consisting of marimbas, vibraphones, my personal tenor and double seconds. Although I have lost touch with many former members, I do hope that through social media like our Facebook group, the lineage can grow stronger, former students can interact with new students, older with young, experienced with inexperienced, committed with timid. Our support group grows every semester. I hope for it to grow, with your contributions, into a thriving, healthy steel pan community. Go look at our website, sanjacsteel.com, and see all the former band members. They now are engineers, students, nurses, musicians, business owners, teachers, agents, salespeople, bankers, parents, professionals in all disciplines. You are now a part of this family. Please stay connected to us wherever your future takes you.
Steel pan master Andy Narell, legendary calypsonian Relator, and five-time Grammy winning drummer Mark Walker are teaming up with the San Jacinto College Central Steel Band, Texas A&M Steel Band, and Lone Star College – North Harris Steel Band to bring a concert of epic proportions to the Slocomb Auditorium on April 6, 2013.
Andy Narell has spent more than a quarter century exploring the subtleties and complexities of steel pan and grafting them to the jazz idiom. He’s one of only a small handful of steel pan players in the world who are playing jazz, and perhaps the only one among that coterie to commit an entire career – live and in the studio – to creating new music for the pan in that context.
Relator (real name Willard Harris) is one of Trinidad’s finest calypsonians. He’s a brilliant singer-songwriter, with a long series of outstanding compositions to his credit. He is also one of the greatest living masters of extempo, an improvised calypso cutting contest in which, like hip-hop freestyle competitions, two singers attempt to blow each other away. He has been featured in two recent films about Trinidad music, Calypso at Dirty Jim’s and Calypso Dreams.
Starting his career in 1971, Relator became famous for his amazing rhymes, and the dazzling phrasing he employs to sing his way through even the trickiest lyrics. In 1980, with the now classic “Food Prices,” he won the Calypso Monarch competition—an honor to which every calypsonian aspires—and he’s still considered one of the masters of the art form today. He is also a great interpreter of classic calypsos, with a vast knowledge of other calypsonians’ songs, especially those of Lord Kitchener.
Grammy award-winning drummer/percussionist Mark Walker was born in Chicago, Illinois. He began playing drumset at age ten and played his first professional club, concert and recording gigs barely out of high school. He gained valuable experience performing an extremely wide range of styles in the Chicago area and later became a first-call session drummer and percussionist, playing on hundreds of jingles and record dates.
Since moving to New York in 1995, he has performed and recorded with: Oregon, Paquito D’Rivera, Michel Camilo, Caribbean Jazz Project, Dave Samuels, Andy Narell, Lyle Mays, David Liebman, Cesar Camargo Mariano and many more. He has appeared on major television shows such as: “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “PBS presents…” and “BET On Jazz.” Mark also appears onscreen with Paquito D’Rivera in Fernando Trueba’s Latin jazz documentary Calle 54 (Miramax).
University of Calypso
Following upon the critical successes of The Passage and Tatoom, Narell was invited to present a concert of his steelband music at the Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival, playing with the great Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra. While he was on the island, he sat in with Relator at a tribute to Lord Kitchener. “There were four different sets,” Narell recalls, “ranging from solo piano to big band and steelband, and everybody played Kitch’s music. Relator did a beautiful set with just his guitar and a percussionist, and at one point I heard him say that he had gone to the University of Kitch, and was proud to be one of its best students. I knew that Relator had sung in Kitchener’s tent for 17 years, and that they were very close, and that he has a deep understanding of Kitchener’s music. I’ve been playing Kitchener’s music since I was a little kid, so the ‘University of Kitch’ really resonated for me. When we decided to record together, I proposed that we call the project ‘University of Calypso’ to capture that feeling that we share.”
Narell and Relator also share a deep affection for classic calypso that infuses this session with a unique energy that hasn’t been heard in a while. When Relator speaks of being a calypsonian, his passion for the art is clear. “Is a tradition we upholdin’. We know what standards are set, what values, and we stay true to that. We are true servants to de t’ing. We are not mockin’ pretenders or exploiters or opportunists lookin’ to be popular an’ t’ing. We believe that vintage calypso must be preserved, and that is the line that we are on.”
Recently, Relator has been advocating a year-round focus on calypso music in Trinidad, as opposed to the traditional model in which calypso disappears when Carnival is over. “I’m not catering to someone who tells me that after Carnival my thing is finished,” he says. “I did 25 years of that. Every week I write a calypso, but you don’t get the coverage because it is not Carnival season. We have to get into an area where we can write a song any time in the year and they play it on the radio.”
Hopefully, University of Calypso will help Narell and Relator bring this marvelous music to a new audience, all year round. “I believe this project has great potential to reach people,” says Narell. “The music is so accessible, people can latch on to so many different things—the beautiful melodies, the groove for dancing, the stories told in the lyrics, the humor, the jazz elements, how the band plays together and interacts, the soloing—and on top of it all, we’ve got an incredibly dynamic guy out front singing these songs, a real storyteller in the great calypso tradition. I wanted to record some of this music right away in order to breathe life into the project and get it off the ground, but the real goal in my mind is to get in front of people and play it live.
“There are so many great calypsos,” Narell continues, “and Relator’s knowledge of it all is so vast that we could make a dozen albums right now and still have plenty of great material to work with. But 15 tunes is a good first outing. With this concept we have for the University of Calypso, and with our ‘professor’ out front, we’ll be able to keep changing the repertoire, learning and exploring the possibilities of this beautiful art form.”
Don’t miss the musical education of a lifetime by attending the University of Calypso concert at San Jacinto College Central’s Slocomb Auditorium, 7 pm, April 6, 2013. Admission is FREE!
Only a few spaces remain open — if you want to be a part of San Jacinto College Steel Band history, register today for the Spring 2013 Steel Band! It is guaranteed to be the biggest and best semester yet, so don’t be left out! If you are a new student, start by visiting www.sanjac.edu/first-steps. If you are a current student, just login to SOS and register for MUEN 1131.102, Small Instrumental Ensemble (CRN 23105). The steel band rehearses Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:30 – 1:20 pm. Be prepared to practice, practice, practice!
We’ve got a really great line-up this semester, and some really big plans in the works! We are honored to have been asked to perform at the upcoming 17th Annual San Jacinto College Foundation Golf Tournament, hosted by Andy Pettitte, on November 7. For more information about the event, please visit the San Jac Foundation’s website. The following week is our Fall 2012 Concert, featuring works by such renowned steel pannists as Ray Holman, Andy Narell, Gary Gibson, and hits by Cee Lo Green, Destra Garcia, Bob Marley and Toto! The concert is Monday, November 12 at 7:00 pm in the Corbin Recital Hall, Monte Blue Music Building, San Jacinto College Central. It is, as always, FREE and open to the public!
Don’t forget — the San Jac Steel Band is available for public and private events, parties, corporate functions, and tax-deductible donations — there is no limit to the amount of money we will accept! All proceeds go directly toward student scholarships. Just contact us for more information!
For our Spring 2012 concert, the San Jacinto College Central Steel Drum Band will be joined by special guest steel pannist, arranger, composer, educator and publisher, Tom Miller. Mr. Miller is a highly respected and sought after steel pan soloist, whose compositions and arrangements will be performed by the SJCC Steel Band at our concert on April 25th at 7:00 PM in the Slocomb Auditorium.
For more information, please contact Michael Mizma at 281-476-1501 Ext. 1228 or email@example.com.
Wednesday, April 25, 7:00-8:00pm, Slocomb Auditorium
The Kemah Pan Jam is happening this weekend, March 24 and 25, at 6th Street Park! We will be performing at 5:30 PM on Saturday, but get there early to catch all of the great groups before us, including our friends the Lone Star College Steel Band and Rhythm Project! The forecast for Saturday is absolutely beautiful–it should be a perfect Pan Jam day! For more information about the Kemah Pan Jam, check out the website: http://www.kemahpanfest.com
The Members page is now updated with the current San Jacinto College Steel Band line-up, and it’s official — with 20 members, this semester we have the B I G G E S T steel band ever at SJCC!
We had a great performance last night at the EXPO 2012 Concert, and are looking forward to the Kemah Pan Jam in March!
Can’t wait until the Kemah Pan Jam or the 2012 Spring Concert to see the San Jac Steel Band? Never fear! The steel band will be previewing a selection of music written by their special guest, Tom Miller, at the SJCC Expo Concert on Friday, February 24, 2012. Tom Miller, acclaimed steel pannist, composer, arranger and producer will be appearing live and in person with the steel band at their Spring 2012 Concert on April 25. Until then, you can catch the steel band performing at the SJCC Expo Concert, along with four vocal ensembles, the SJCC Orchestra, the jazz ensembles, SJCC Concert Band, and SJCC Wind Ensemble. Prior to the concert there will be a public seminar for those interested in “What it Takes to be a Music Major.” The seminar begins at 6 pm, and the concert kicks off at 7 pm in the San Jacinto College Central Music Building.
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