Ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago Visits CVPA


CVPA Dean Rich Holly with Ambassador Dr. Neil Parsan


On November 19 and 20, the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts hosted the Ambassador to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Neil Parsan. In addition to attending the NIU Steel Band concert and providing words of encouragement and support to the NIU community, Ambassador Parsan met with CVPA Dean Rich Holly, steel band co-directors Clifford Alexis and Liam Teague, significant steel band donor Lester Trilla and several NIU dignitaries during his time on the NIU campus.

Dr. Parsan is extremely passionate about finding ways in which NIU can partner with entities in Trinidad and Tobago to further the exposure and reach of the steel pan, the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. As a result of several hours of meetings and conversations, we’ll be looking to create internships for NIU steel pan students to perform with the major steel bands in Trinidad and Tobago, work toward scholarship opportunities for more Trinidad and Tobago students to attend NIU in order to earn their degree in steel pan, and create a student exchange program with the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, NIU will help create a stronger music literacy program throughout Trinidad and Tobago and assist the University of Trinidad and Tobago with their efforts to construct a development program.

The first steel band in a U.S. university was founded at Northern Illinois University by G. Allan O’Connor in 1973. Since that time the group has performed at major universities, music festivals and performing halls throughout the United States and the world. NIU is one of very few institutions world-wide at which a student may major in music with steel pan as their major instrument. Graduates of the NIU steel pan program now teach and perform all over the globe, including several who hold professorships at universities in Trinidad and Tobago.

For many years, and for many people still, the steel pan has been considered a novelty instrument. Through the efforts of NIU professor and steel pan virtuoso Liam Teague and select others, the steel pan is becoming recognized as one of the most versatile musical instruments anywhere. In addition to the traditional calypso settings, concerto performances with symphony orchestras, jazz and afro-cuban music settings are becoming more frequent for the leading performers. With the collaborations between NIU and Ambassador Parsan, we believe the steel pan will continue to make great strides in becoming a favorite instrument of composers, performers and audiences world-wide.

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