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World Premiere of “Psalms” by Dr. Paul Busselberg, May 8

Dr. Paul BusselbergThe San Jacinto College Steel Band will be joining forces with the SJCC Chorale for a second world premiere concert, on Friday, May 8, 2015.  The work, titled “Psalms,” was written by San Jacinto College choir director Dr. Paul Busselberg.

Dr. Busselberg is in demand throughout the greater-Houston area as a guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator with church choirs, festivals, and contests. He is a published composer of choral compositions and arrangements (Walton Music), and his work has been performed at regional and national choral festivals.

As a solo performer, Dr. Busselberg has sung with the Houston Chamber Choir, Houston Ballet Orchestra, Bach Society Houston, Mercury Baroque, Ars Lyrica, Musiqa, and Col Canto. Recently released recordings include Robert Cundick’s The Redeemer with Brigham Young University, Bach’s cantata BWV 39 (Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot) with the Bach Society Houston, and Karim Al-Zand’s Leila (Albany Records).

Beyond his Houston appearances, Dr. Busselberg has peformed with the Santa Fe Opera, Florentine Opera (WI), Chicago Opera Theater, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Skylight Opera Theater, the Buffalo Philharmonic, Southwestern Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Rockford (IL) Bach Chamber Choir and Orchestra, and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.

Spring 2015 Mass Band Concert

San Jacinto College Steel BandThe SJCC Steel Band is proud to have hosted another mass community steel band concert on April 27 with special guests from the League City, Parkview Intermediate and the newly formed Sam Rayburn High School Pilot Steel Band programs! This concert marks the third time we have combined forces with these community groups, and we are excited to keep the tradition going and growing even bigger in the future. Pan is here to stay in the San Jac community!

World Premiere of “The Four Seasons” by Phil and Michelle Hawkins

Phil Hawkins

Commissioned by Michael Mizma and the San Jacinto College Central Steel Band, Phil Hawkins’ “The Four Seasons” will be premiered on Friday, March 27 at 7:00 pm at San Jacinto College Central.  Phil and Michelle Hawkins will join the SJCC Steel Band 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.

Michelle Hawkins

Fall 2014 Mass Band Concerts

San Jacinto College Central Spring 2014 ConcertThe SJCC Steel Band is excited to be hosting another mass steel band concert with special guests from the League City, Parkview Intermediate and the newly formed Sam Rayburn High School Pilot Steel Band programs! We are so excited that we have a chance to build on the success of our spring 2014 concert which was the first time we combined forces with these community groups. Pan is alive and well in the San Jac community!

The day following our concert, the SJCC Steel Band will be traveling to Texas A&M University for a first-ever combined performance on the A&M campus with Maroon Steel, TAMU’s own steel band. We are excited for this day because we will not only perform with the A&M band but students will have the opportunity to audit classes and perform for an Ethnomusicology lecture class.

San Jac Concert: Monday November 17, 7:00pm in Corbin Hall, Monte Blue Music Building, San Jacinto College Central, Pasadena, Texas

TAMU Concert: 7:00pm in the MSC Bethancourt Ballroom, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Gary Gibson returns for March 25 and 28 concerts!
Gary GibsonThe San Jacinto College Central Steel Band is excited to welcome pannist Gary Gibson back for his third appearance as a guest artist.  Mr. Gibson will be appearing at the band’s Spring 2014 concert on March 25, 2014, as well as at the Music Department’s Expo concert on March 28.  The SJCC Steel Band would like to sincerely thank the San Jacinto College Foundation for their support to help establish the pilot steel bands and their support for bringing Gary Gibson back to San Jacinto College Central.  The band would also like to thank the San Jacinto College Central Music Department for their support in commissioning an original work by Gary Gibson for the Expo concert.

The March 25th Steel Band concert will be held in the Monte Blue Music Building’s Corbin Recital Hall at 7 pm and will include performances of several original compositions by Gary Gibson.  Joining Mr. Gibson and the SJCC Steel Band for the first time will be special guest members of the Parkview Intermediate Pilot Steel band and members of the League City Intermediate Pilot Steel Band.

The March 28th Expo Concert will be held in the Slocomb Auditorium at 7 pm, and will feature the world premiere of “Language of Life, Voice of the Soul,” a one-hour, 14-movement piece written by Gary Gibson and commissioned by Michael Mizma and the San Jacinto College Central Music Department. Each movement is a brief, three-to-four-minute sampling of music from each of the ensembles and soloists, culminating in a grand finale on which all performers play together.

The initial conceptual template for the piece was Camille Saint-Saens’s “Carnival of the Animals,” in which each movement is introduced with a short poem by Ogden Nash. The same idea has been applied to  “Language of Life, Voice of the Soul,” with original poems by the composer introducing most of the movements. The piece is intended as both entertainment and education, so the narrative introductions relate something about the features of a particular ensemble (or soloist) and/or its history.

The movements include brass ensemble, string orchestra, solo alto vocalist, woodwind ensemble, small choir, jazz big band, solo piano, percussion quartet, string quartet, large choir, small jazz combo, steel band, and wind ensemble. While the musical styles of each of these groups and soloists vary greatly, they do share some musical themes. The steel band, for example, borrows a theme from the string orchestra, and the jazz combo borrows a thematic fragment from the brass ensemble. All the various themes are interwoven together in the final movement.

In 1968, inspired by a performance by the U.S. Navy Steel band at a parade in his birthplace of Wichita, Kansas, eight-year-old Gary Gibson sacrificed his rusty old round metal “Sno-flake” sled in order to hammer out his own four-note steel drum. Thirty-five years later, he would take a two-month hiatus from his busy schedule as a Seattle-based jazz musician to live in Trinidad, West Indies, the birthplace of the steelpan, and become a national champion as a member of the 120-player strong “Exodus Steel Orchestra” in the 2004 Panorama competition. His most recent award from Trinidad came as 1st prize winner in two out of three categories of the 2008 “Symphony and Steel” orchestral composition contest.

Though his early musical training and education through graduate school was in the classical realm as a percussionist and composer, he shifted his attention as a teenager to jazz and Caribbean music styles. While still keeping one foot firmly planted in his classical roots as a composer and performer, and another firmly planted as a jazz vibraphonist, he has embraced the steelpan as his primary vehicle for jazz improvisation.

Gary began seriously playing the steelpan as a college music student in 1979. A drummer, vibraphonist, and keyboardist since the age of five, he holds a Master’s degree in Music Performance from Wichita State University. As a graduate student there, he led his own 16-piece pan group, the “Pan America Steel Orchestra.” The group recorded “Inland Evolution” in 1985, a collection of Gibson’s original, experimental works for steelpan ensemble.

Gibson is active as both a clinician and performer. Recent appearances include Indiana University, Arizona State University, University of Florida, University of Southern Mississippi, Brigham Young University, University of Montana, Miami University of Ohio, Wichita State University, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Jacinto College and North Harris Community College (Houston), Morehead State University, University of Kentucky, University of Toledo, the Caribbean Music Festival “PANorama” Steelband competition (part of the Virginia Arts Festival), Kansas State University, Kent State University, and numerous high school steel band programs throughout the United States. He recently finished producing a recording of his arrangement of Mark Loquan’s “Frenzy” with the Miami University of Ohio Steelband which will appear on the upcoming “Pan in Education II” CD.
World Premiere of “The Pebbles,” Friday, November 8

Phil Hawkins

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.

Michelle Hawkins“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

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.

Much love,

Michael Mizma

Andy Narell and Relator to bring the University of Calypso to San Jacinto College Central!

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

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.

Mark Walker

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!

Register now for Spring 2013!

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!

Welcome to the Fall 2012 Steel Band!

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!

Copyright © 2015 San Jacinto College Central Steel Drum Band

This publication is written and edited by students and/or employees of the San Jacinto College District. The opinions and views contained in the publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Trustees or administration of the San Jacinto College District.