About Phil Solomon


Born in British Guyana, Phil Solomon, steelpan builder, composer, and steel band arranger, began making musical toys from tin cans at the age of seven. He would gather cans of all sizes and hammer them until they made different sounds. Phil became more interested in music as a teenager after hearing his first steel band. At the age of sixteen he built his first Steelpan, he quickly knew that building and playing steelpans would be his lifelong commitment. By age seventeen, he was making steelpans, performing and arranging music for his first steelband, The Bell Boys. In 1966 he formed his second band The Atlantic Symphony Steel Orchestra and later, The Pegasus Soundwaves, who became Guyana’s premier steelband. In 1979, Solomon received national recognition when he won” Musician of the Year” awarded by the National Arts Council of Guyana, for his composition ‘O Martyr to Cuffy We Sing’ a song dedicated to the national hero of Guyana. All in all, during his time in Guyana, Solomon built, managed and led several bands; The Bell Boys, Atlantic Symphony, Police Band, GDF, Amsternites, Winkliers and Soundwaves.

In 1984 Solomon migrated to the United States and settled in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Soon after he founded Solomon Steelpan Company, the first steelpan manufacturing company in the Unites States. SSC, built steelpans for individuals, schools and community programs throughout the country. Phil Solomon and Solomon Steelpan Company have made significant contributions to the development of steelpan education programs throughout the U.S. With outstanding programs in Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, North Dakota and West Virginia. 

Solomon’s most significant contribution to the steelpan is in the area of design and construction. His years of research and development have brought breakthroughs such as the GroovelessTM Method, The New Generation Series and a synchronized note placement system.

 An accomplished and exceptional player Solomon also founded Steel Impressions, a professional performance group that has several recordings and has performed for thousands at various venues throughout The United States. The band has also made appearances on local and national televion programs. 

Solomon has also appeared on several television outlets performing or teaching about steelpan building and the tuning process. One of his most popular appearances was on the well known children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. 

Phil Solomon has received many awards for his contribution to steelpan as well as music education. He was awarded a lifetime membership award in the Tri-M Music society, a music honor society of the National Association for Music Educators. On June 26th 2012, he received a proclamation by the Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh for his work and dedication in steelpan technology. June 26th is now declared as Phil Solomon Day.




The Exhibition

The Barrels to Beethoven Exhibit,  is an interactive, multimedia exhibit, celebrating the past 30 years of steelpan development in Pittsburgh. The exhibit centers around Phil Solomon, a world renown steelpan builder, tuner and player who brought the steelpan to Pittsburgh in 1984 after migrating from Guyana, South America. The exhibit provides audiences with the opportunity to see first-hand, how the instrument is made, tuned and played as well as its development over the past 3 decades in Pittsburgh. The exhibit opened on November 22, 2014.

Barrels to Beethoven Opening Reception, November 22, 2014

The Full Review…

The grace of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, was definitely upon the room at Cox Contemporary on the evening of November 22nd. On this day, St. Cecilia Day, debuted “Barrels to Beethoven” an exhibit celebrating the 30th anniversary of Phil Solomon and Steelpan in Pittsburgh. The evening included a special performance from Soundwaves Youth Steelband, Caribbean music by dj illeso, food from Ten Penny and Taglio and surprise desserts from Brusters. Guests, which included past students, band directors, fans and family, spoke the same sentiment…”this room, this evening, feels so amazing”…was heard many times throughout the night.

This was a story that needed to be told and celebrated. Phil Solomon and the steelpan found the perfect home in Pittsburgh, the perfect combination of manufacturing meets the arts.

Solomon arrived in Pittsburgh in 1984. He was a famous steelpan builder, tuner and player in Guyana but did not think he could continue his craft here. After a few months Solomon was building pans and performing throughout the city. Over the past few decades Solomon has vastly improved the pan making process and the quality of the instruments, performed throughout the U.S. and started hundreds of steelpan programs across the country. And, done it all from Pittsburgh, with pride!

The Barrels to Beethoven exhibit and reception, curated and produced by Leigh Solomon Pugliano CEO of Straightfwd Co. and Founder of The Barrels to Beethoven Project, will return in the summer of 2017 and feature a special concert by Phil Solomon and guests.