restricted access 12 - Epilogue—The Niu Steelband into the Future
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C H A P T E R 1 2 EPILOGUE—THE NIU STEELBAND INTO THE FUTURE “To sum it up, if I can say in one word what I took away it was love. Both of them [Alexis and Teague] love what they do. They love the instrument. It was great working with people who love what they do. It’s inspiring.” —Charissa Granger1 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 that the NIU Steelband is one of the best steelbands in the world. Lester Trilla Scholarship One constant force behind the NIU steelband program since the mid-1990s has been the patronage of Lester Trilla. By the time of O’Connor’s retirement in 2003, Trilla and his philanthropic foundation had already given a substantial amount of financial support and scholarships to the NIU steelband program.Many of the scholarship recipients are from the C H A P T E R 1 2 118 Caribbean.O’Connor is quick to acknowledge the vital role that Trilla has played over more than a decade as the primary patron for the steelband program at NIU.“A whole bunch of students were given an opportunity they never would have had because he did this. Now they’re back in their home countries, contributing to the development of the arts there,” O’Connor said.“Their abilities have enhanced the quality of the group, and the interaction of the students from all these different cultures has been a benefit to everybody.”2 Nearly two decades after he first discovered the NIU Steelband,the number of Trilla scholars has nearly tripled, and his generosity and dedication to the NIU steelband program has been unwavering. Because of Trilla and the NIU/UWI–St. Augustine partnership, the current Teague/Alexis era of the NIU Steelband enjoys a steady influx of talent from the Caribbean , especially a number of graduate students who came out of the UWI undergraduate music programs.As Teague and Alexis look to the future,the diversity and quality of the NIU Steelband has never been greater, thanks in no small part to the generosity of Lester Trilla. All University Steelband The role of graduate students in the NIU steelband program has increased dramatically in the past decade.Normally,there are approximately three or four steelpan graduate students F I G U R E 1 2 . 1 , Cliff Alexis, Les Trilla,Al O’Connor (1999) 119 Epilogue—The NIU Steelband into the Future working on either performance certificates or master’s degrees at any given time.With the influx of a larger number of steelpan majors (especially graduate students) in the early 2000s, came the need for opportunities for prospective steelpan majors to lead steelbands. Discussions between the faculty and students led to the creation of the All University Steelband in 2001. The band is open enrollment and inclusive, and no longer did students interested in steelpan need to be music majors and pass an audition to participate—as required for the NIU Steelband—as the All University Steelband was open to anyone in the university ,regardless of experience level.The creation of this band expanded opportunities for the steelpan graduate students,who get real world experience as part of their education at NIU. Steelpan graduate students are encouraged to feature and rehearse their own arrangements and compositions with the All University Steelband, and the band is an invaluable resource for students of all skill levels at NIU. To say the least, Teague and Alexis have a close working relationship with the steelpan graduate students and work together to create a unique situation for their students: Cliff and I have dedicated ourselves toward educating the students in a holistic manner. Many of them enter the program with obvious strengths in certain musical departments and lack proficiency in others.As a result they are exposed not only to an environment that helps them to...


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