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FOREWORD “Why are you messing around with this? It’s never going to go anywhere.” 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 Islands and seeing the effect that these magical instruments had on both the players and the audience. Everyone was incapable of standing still; sometimes the panmen were far more agitated than those listening. I had always felt that having a group like this as part of a percussion program would be a tremendous value to the students, as they would be able to experience how making music can be a joy for anyone. The bands I was fortunate to play with might have a secretary from the prime minister’s office standing on one side of me and a dock worker on the other side. All were conscious of the same thing—making music so precise and energetic as to almost create an out-of-body experience. Our program took some giant steps forward with the additions of Clifford Alexis in 1985, and Liam Teague in 1992 (originally as a student) and the introduction of the bachelor ’s and master’s degrees with the steelpan as the major instrument. We began to attract students from the Caribbean (mostly from Trinidad and Tobago), Canada, Japan, Denmark , and Brazil as well as from all over the United States. This was due in large part to the scholarship support of Lester Trilla and the Trilla Steel Drum Corporation, whose backing F oreword x of the program continues to this day. It also attracted the attention of steelpan junkies Andrew Martin, Ray Funk, and Jeannine Remy, all known authorities in this art form. In this excellent publication they have admirably assembled a history and documentary of the NIU Steelband and those responsible for its formation and continuous evolution. As you read this book, I would strongly urge you to remember that this band, when formed, was considered the first actively performing steelband in an American university. What it has become today is extraordinary.And remember,“It’s never going to go anywhere!” G. Allan O’Connor Director Emeritus, NIU Steelband 2014 recipient of the Percussive Arts Society Lifetime Achievement Award ...


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