There are many wonderful reasons that schools and organizations want to start a steelpan program or steel band. The benefits are vast and the popularity of the program, spreads quickly. The process of starting a program can be daunting and with so many options, determining things like which instruments to purchase and from where, can be a challenge. We often encourage interested organizations to think about few things before starting the process.
1.) The Cost
I’ll start here because this is the biggest deterrent. It can be shocking to some to see the cost of steelpan or starting an entire program. The best steelpan makers sell their instrument for thousands of dollars. For the most part, prices range from $2500 to $8000 for a Single Tenor Pan. Because the steelpan is handmade and because of the time, energy, knowledge and expertise that goes into each instrument, buyers should understand they can’t cost less than that. Also, keep in mind, it’s hard to find many handmade instruments by the top quality makers in the field, that are “cheap.” Don’t expect the steelpan to be any different. If you happen to find steelpan instruments that are cheap, have an expert listen to the sound and inspect the quality of the instrument.
2.) The Sound
Continuing from the importance of cost is the importance of quality. Just like with anything else, more expensive does not mean better. However, cheap most definitely equals low quality. Understanding what a steelpan should look like, sound like and being able to decipher between low quality and exceptional is extremely important. There is nothing worse than a good player with a bad pan.
3.) The Teacher
You have to understand the steelpan as well as the entire steelpan orchestra to be a great, even good, steelpan educator or band leader. Just like with symphonic instruments, not every musician can conduct the orchestra. Well, not every music teacher can teach the steelpan and run a successful program. You have to study the instrument and learn the history of the instrument and technique, just like any other form of education. In order for a program to be successful and sustain, the person teaching your program must understand the fundamentals of steelpan education from technique to arranging.
If you need support with starting your program, please contact us.