Our Founders Story

Barrels to Beethoven Founder, Leigh Solomon Pugliano performing with her daughters at TEDx Pittsburgh

Barrels to Beethoven began as an exhibit to celebrate recognize and celebrate Leigh’s father, Phil Solomon– steelpan builder, tuner player, and pioneer. Prior to launching the exhibit, Leigh dedicated six months to researching not only her father’s journey in pan culture, but learning what she didn’t know about the instrument, the culture, the history, and the people. Through her research and during the celebration, Leigh realized that the exhibition could not be the end and was really the beginning of a new journey– a journey to tell her story, preserve her father’s legacy, teach accurate steelpan history, and most important…develop a new generation of builders that utilize her father’s exceptional process and methods to create beautiful musical instruments. Along with David Pugliano, Barrels to Beethoven has developed programming and curriculum that is immediately impactful– incorporating Afro-Caribbean history & culture, music theory, performance skills, and steelpan technique.

Over the last 5 years the organization has engaged thousands of young people through workshops, performances, demonstrations, school courses and community events and developed a popular adult program titled “Let’s Play Pan”. Since inception, Barrels to Beethoven has received recognition and support from the global steelpan community including the Guyanese government, Trinidadian Associations for steelpan education, steelpan publications, steelpan musicians, and educators–all of whom understand the importance of preserving the history and teaching the craft, as well as the benefits of steelpan education for young people.