Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

CONTENTS

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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FOREWORD

G. Allan O’Connor

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pp. ix-x

This is what was said to me by two of my colleagues after the NIU Steelband became the first steelband to ever perform at a Percussive Arts Society International Convention. This one was held at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville during the fall of 1977. Their reaction was not typical of most of the audience that attended, but I continued to find it amusing to recall as our program continued to grow and progress.

I came to Northern Illinois University in the fall of 1968 as Instructor of Percussion, always with the idea of starting a steelband after seeing several perform in the US Virgin...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Andrew Martin, Ray Funk, Jeannine Remy

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pp. xi-xiv

The following pages were made possible through the personal contributions of many individuals, spread out over three continents, too numerous to list. We would like to recognize the efforts of NIU Steelband alumni and supporters Michael Bento, Shannon Dudley, Scott McConnell, Kuo-Huang Han, Satanand Sharma, Paul Ross, James Walker, Elizabeth DeLamater, Mike Schwebke, Mia Gormandy, Adam Grise, Harold Headley, Lester Trilla, Kenneth Joseph, Seion Gomez, Jan Bach, Charissa Granger, and Leonard Moses for their work, perspectives, and consultation. The graciousness and patience demonstrated by...

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1 - Introduction

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pp. 3-10

From the moment you step off the airplane, the experience of visiting Port of Spain, Trinidad and DeKalb, Illinois during the winter is a study in contrasts. For travelers from the north typically arriving in the evening to Piarco International Airport in Trinidad, the air-conditioned terminal fails to mask the impending shock of oven-like heat that blasts visitors exiting the airport doors to the taxi stand. After surviving the roughly forty-minute maxi-taxi ride from the airport to the city of Port of Spain, one arrives at steelpan mecca—panyards saturate the city and surrounding area, and the Queen’s Park Savannah located in...

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2 - Al O’Connor’s Life Before Steelpan

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pp. 11-20

The NIU Steelband started with Al O’Connor, a native of Long Island, New York who loved music from an early age. O’Connor earned college degrees in music, focused on electronic and avant-garde music, taught in high school, and came to Northern Illinois University (hereafter NIU) to teach percussion. The program had no steelband, and only because of his desire and drive would one eventually exist. At the time O’Connor began his steelband endeavor there were almost no steelbands as part of university music programs in the United States; O’Connor had to create it all on his own....

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3 - From Hummingbird to Husky: Cliff Alexis Arrives at Northern Illinois University

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pp. 21-32

By 1980 O’Connor was facing the harsh reality that maintaining steelpans in good working order was, in itself, practically a full-time job. Keeping the NIU Steelband’s instruments in top shape was no small task, and he was keenly aware that a steelpan was like a piano and that in order to keep the instruments sounding their best, an in-house tuner would be necessary. The idea of having an in-house tuner for piano and other instruments is standard practice in university music programs, professional orchestras, and music organizations throughout the United States and the world. Considering that the NIU School of Music...

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4 - The O’Connor/Alexis Era and the Niu/Birch Creek Connection

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pp. 33-46

As of the fall of 1985, Alexis was a permanent member of the NIU School of Music staff. While his primary raison d’être was the instruments, both tuning and building new steelpans, he slowly became much more for the band. However, he was initially stymied by the fact that he did not have a full-time job. Together O’Connor and Alexis began plotting a new direction for the NIU Steelband and new roles for Cliff to play. As Instrument Repair Technician 2, Alexis reported directly to O’Connor for matters of oversight, administration, and promotion. As such, O’Connor made his best effort to always give Alexis superior...

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5 - Guest Artists Throughout the Years

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pp. 47-54

For any college or university performing ensemble, featuring a guest artist or soloist is a steadfast way to challenge student performers, elevate the overall quality of the ensemble, and invigorate the student body of the institution. In addition to such benefits, guest artists often bring new or different cultural perspectives to a region unaccustomed to meeting individuals from a specific part of the world. Guest artists represent a chance for faculty members to bring in outside experts with the hope that they, too, can learn from the experience and skill of the specialist. Finally, guest artists allow music ensembles, and even entire...

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6 - On the Road—the Niu Steelband Tours America

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pp. 55-64

An important component of any university music program is performance. In some programs that may be limited to a few campus events, but O’Connor was committed to giving the students in the NIU Steelband as broad a performance experience as possible. Opportunities ranged from local concerts around DeKalb to as far away as he could arrange. Early in the band’s history the range of performances included tours to the East Coast during the late spring and summer built around O’Connor’s home base in Long Island. In addition, the NIU Steelband embarked on several major trips outside the Chicagoland area over the...

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7 - Panning to the East—the Niu Steelband Captures Asia

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pp. 65-78

The East Coast tours of the 1970s, the trips to PASIC, and the performance and demonstration at the Acoustical Society in 1995 served to bolster the reputation and status of the NIU steelband program. O’Connor and Alexis spent the better part of the 1980s slowly earning the respect of the Trinidadian public and steelpan community. But it was two highly successful tours to Taiwan in 1992 and 1998 and a tour to South Korea to perform at the 2002 World Cup and the fourth annual Seoul Drum Festival that solidified the NIU Steelband’s international reputation....

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8 - The Paganini of Pan, Liam Teague, Comes to Niu

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pp. 79-88

The year 1989 was good for O’Connor, Alexis, and the NIU Steelband. O’Connor’s career, in particular, took a major turn for the better. During the late summer he was promoted to the position of Associate Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts at NIU. In addition to his duties with the NIU Steelband, O’Connor was now in charge of monitoring academic programs, coordinating academic reviews, preparing budgets, tracking student performance data and student recruitment, and supervising financial aid and scholarships.2 With his new position came great responsibility, and O’Connor’s seemingly nonexistent...

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9 - Return to Trinidad and the World Steelband Music Festival 2000

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pp. 89-96

From the time Alexis joined O’Connor at NIU in 1985, the pair shared a hope that some day they would be able to bring the NIU Steelband to Trinidad. Beyond showing off the progress of steelpan in the United States, O’Connor and Alexis wanted to expose NIU students to the real flesh and blood of steelpan’s roots. In October of 2000, the NIU Steelband finally got its chance to sojourn to the birthplace of steelpan as participants in the World Steelband Music Festival (hereafter WSMF) competition. The WSMF was an outgrowth of the biannual nationwide steelband competition Pan Is Beautiful. For the 2000 installment...

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10 - Steelpan Degree Program and the Niu/Uwi Pipeline

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pp. 97-102

One of the most important factors spurring Alexis to join O’Connor in DeKalb in 1985 was the hope that someday NIU might establish a free-standing degree program in steelpan. O’Connor, too, shared this vision, and the pair worked steadily over the course of several years to divorce steelpan from the overarching umbrella of the percussion department and to create a curriculum that put the steelpan on equal footing with the violin, piano, or voice in the NIU School of Music. According to O’Connor, “It was my intention from the beginning to think of steel drums not as a novelty, but to have people learn the music...

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11 - O’Connor Retires, Teague/Alexis Era Begins

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pp. 103-116

From its humble beginnings in 1973 through the high-profile tours and triumphs of the 1990s and early 2000s, Al O’Connor and Cliff Alexis were the identity of steelband at Northern Illinois University. After thirty-five years of teaching and service to NIU, O’Connor decided to fully retire in the summer of 2003, and protégé Liam Teague took over as co-director of the NIU Steelband. The announcement came as little surprise to those affiliated with the NIU steelband program as O’Connor had already retired from his position as associate dean of NIU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts in the spring of 2000.1...

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12 - Epilogue—The Niu Steelband into the Future

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pp. 117-124

From its humble beginning in 1973, the NIU Steelband has continually evolved over the course of the past forty years. In the last decade, the NIU steelband program continued to move forward under the direction of Teague and Alexis. The reputation of Liam Teague as an international star in the world of steelpan serves as an important draw, and the NIU steelband program remains one of only a few degree-granting programs in the world that offer a steelpan major. The complexity of the music and the playing level of the band has continually increased over the years, to the point that one can rightly say by any measure...

APPENDIX ONE: Niu Steelband Recordings

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pp. 125-130

APPENDIX TWO: Compositions, Arrangements and Commissions for Steelpan (current as of 2013)

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pp. 131-136

NOTES

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pp. 137-148

INDEX

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pp. 149-151