Forum highlights pros and cons of the Steelband Panorama format

Panorama competitions, which engage the steel band community infinitely more than any other regularly scheduled activity, will be the focus of a symposium to be presented by the Trinidad & Tobago Folk Arts Institute in conjunction with the School of Professional & Community Development at Medgar Evers College, on Thursday, Feb. 17, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The event will be held in the Mary Pinkett Lecture Hall, Room S122 on the Medgar Evers College campus, 1637 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn (between Carroll St. and Crown St.).

The symposium’s formal topic is: Is There a Need to Revisit the Steel Band Panorama Format? The Panorama theme was prompted by the rash of problems Panorama competitions have experienced in recent years, explained Les Slater, chair of the Folk Arts Institute,

“Issues related to monetary compensation for participants seem to be a continuing sore point, and this has undoubtedly contributed to organizers having to halt the staging of competitions in some instances,” Slater said.

Among the symposium’s scheduled presenters are Garvin Blake, acclaimed steel pan instrumentalist and arranger; Anthony Hinds, leader of Dem Stars Steel Orchestra of New York and president of the National Alliance of Steelbands; and Kenton Kirby, editor-in-chief of Caribbean Life and formerly a multiple Panorama-winning arranger in St. Vincent.

Panorama was introduced into the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival festivities in 1963. Since then there have been Panorama offshoots presented in other Caribbean islands, and in New York, London, Toronto, Boston, and Miami, among other locations.

The allure of this blockbuster event, both in its birthplace and elsewhere, has generated an international following of steel band music enthusiasts. But financial considerations have increasingly impacted the competition in latter years, creating problems for competing bands, as far as meeting the formidable costs involved in bringing a band to Panorama readiness, as well as for competition organizers, more so where funds from commercial sponsors or government sources have proven difficult to acquire. The financial aspect, although a major concern, is by no means the only issue that has triggered debate among Panorama watchers.

“The symposium reflects the Folk Arts Institute’s determination to highlight the factors that may or may not be suggesting a fresh look at the whole Panorama concept,” Slater said.

The February 17 event is part of an ongoing series of forums in which the Folk Arts Institute is collaborating with Medgar Evers College. Two others are scheduled for during the college’s spring semester.

Admission to the symposium is free and it is open to the public. Any further inquiries may be made at: 718-252-6161.

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