The world-famous NIU Steelband celebrates 50 years with an anniversary concert, Sunday, April 16 at 3 p.m. in the NIU Music Building’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.
The concert will feature the NIU Steelband under the direction of Liam Teague and assisted by Yuko Asada, the All-University Steelband co-directed by Joshua Bedeau and Jalen Charles and the CSA Steelband directed by Asada.
Performing with the steelbands are the DeKalb High School Steelband directed by Steve Lundin, the NIU Jazz Orchestra directed by Reggie Thomas and the NIU Steelband 50th Anniversary Choir conducted by Mary Lynn Doherty.
The NIU Steelband was founded in 1973 by Al O’Connor, former associate dean of Music, and head of percussion studies. He was at the forefront of the development of the steelband art form in North America, and his pioneering work influenced the formation of steelband orchestras at educational institutions throughout the USA and Asia.
The NIU Steelband was the first actively performing steelband at an American university. Under the direction of O’Connor and the late Clifford Alexis—whom Al convinced to join the staff at NIU—the band made many significant and memorable appearances including its performances at Yankee Stadium; PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention), where they were the first steelband to perform at the convention; World of Drumming Festival in Seoul (2002), and two tours of Taiwan.
In the early 1990s, together with Clifford Alexis, O’Connor was able to convince Lester Trilla, CEO of the Trilla Drum Company in Chicago, to implement a scholarship fund which would assist students primarily from the Caribbean to pursue music studies at NIU. Trilla agreed to do so, and through his philanthropy, a great number of students have been able to attain music degrees and go on to have successful careers in their respective homelands.
Liam Teague is Professor of Music and Director of Steelpan Studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU), where he also leads the renowned NIU Steelband. Teague is the recipient of an NIU Board of Trustees Professorship Award (2022) and a Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor Award (2018).
Hailed as the “Paganini of the Steelpan”, his commitment to demonstrating the great musical possibilities of the steelpan has taken him to throughout the world, and he has received many awards from his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, including the Hummingbird National Award (Silver) and the Ansa McAl Caribbean Award for Excellence. In 2022, The San Fernando City Council honored Teague with the Keys to the City of San Fernando, his hometown in Trinidad and Tobago.
Yuko Asada is a musical instrument technician and director of the NIU Community School of the Arts Steelband at Northern Illinois University. Yuko was first introduced to steelpan tuning by Ellie Mannette while studying for her Bachelor’s degree at West Virginia University. She further honed her skills and passion for steelpan by completing a Master of Music degree and a Performer’s Certificate specializing in steelpan construction from NIU, where she had the opportunity to work closely with Clifford Alexis.
The program includes a performance of “Still Here” dedicated to O’Connor, Alexis and Trilla.
Special guest performers include Permanent Representative of Belize to the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Lynn Young and His Worship Junia Regrello, Mayor of the City of San Fernando, in Trinidad and Tobago. Other guest performers include Davon Roberts (drum set), Todd Donnelly (steelpan), Paul G. Ross (drum set), Ella Barribeau, Dzana Bogalijevik, Logan Bryant, KaLilah Chears, Naomi Dutton, Nat Garbe, Ethan Gonzalez, MJ Harr, Caroline Menzer, Emily Montelongo, Alexia Quinn, Korbyn Ringer, Clare Steffes, Michael Tuskey, Emma Vaughn, Olivia Wells, Josanne Francis, Evon Sams (saxophone), Khan Cordice (double second steelpans), Rich Holly, Greg Beyer, Ben Wahlund, Jean Christophe Leroy, Phil Beale, Mardra Thomas, Sean O’Connor, Chih-I Hsaio (erhu), Cornelius Johnson, Kenneth Joseph, Nicole Riordan and Nicolas Barrios.
|Arr. G. Allan O’Connor
|Performance dedicated to G. Allan O’Connor, Dr. Clifford Alexis, and Les Trilla
NIU 50th Anniversary Choir
Mary Lynn Doherty, conductor
Sean O’Connor, narration
|You Can Call Me Al
|Arr. Zahra Lake
Josanne Francis, soloist
|Song to the Chiricahua
Matthew Kiser, lead pan
|Address; Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts
|Community School of the Arts (CSA) Steelband
|Pan 2000 (prelude) – Funky Town
|Cliff Alexis, Steven Greenburg
|arr. Yuko Asada
|Bill Withers/ Skip Scarborough
Arr. Christian Melhado
|Mardra Thomas, vocalist; Reggie Thomas, keyboard
|Joshua Bedeau, Jalen Charles, Rashunda Dorset Headley
|NIU Steelpan Studio
|Grape is Ripe
|Adap. Yuko Asada
|Chih-I Hsiao, erhu
|Nessun Dorma from Turandot
|Adap. Kenneth Joseph
|Cornelius Johnson, tenor
Kenneth Joseph, conductor
|Pan by Storm
|Ken “Professor” Philmore
|Trans. Zeev Saffir
|La Vida es un Carnaval
|Arr. Kareem “TJ” King
|Nicole Riordan, Nicolas Barrios; vocalists
NIU Jazz Orchestra; Reggie Thomas, director
DeKalb High School Steelband; Steve Lundin, director
50th anniversary guest performers
Brute Force: Todd Donnelly Steelpan; Paul G. Ross, drum set
Still Here: Ella Barribeau, Dzana Bogalijevik, Logan Bryant, KaLilah Chears, Naomi Dutton, Nat Garbe, Ethan Gonzalez, MJ Harr, Caroline Menzer, Emily Montelongo, Alexia Quinn, Korbyn Ringer, Clare Steffes, Michael Tuskey, Emma Vaughn, Olivia Wells
You Can Call Me Al: Josanne Francis
Song to the Chiricahua: Evon Sams, saxophone; Khan Cordice, double second steelpans
Wood ‘n Steel: Rich Holly, Greg Beyer, Ben Wahlund, Jean Christophe Leroy, Phil Beale
Pan By Storm
- Permanent Representative of Belize to the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador LynnYoung
- His Worship, Junia Regrello, Mayor City of San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago
- Daron Roberts (NIU alum), drum set
Tzu Yun Chiu
Daniel Ben Grych
Fernando Marroquin Mendoza
Joshua Bedeau, drum set
Andrew Kinsey, congas; auxiliary percussion
Jackson Patrick Rich
Abigail Grace Deewaard
NIU Jazz Orchestra
Evon Sams, alto saxophone
David Perez, tenor saxophone
Megan Rault, baritone saxophone
Gabriel Wade, trumpet
Charlie Watson, trumpet
Phil Pistone, trumpet
Kirby Fellis, trombone
Brandon Diehl, trombone
Spencer Mackey, trombone
DeKalb High School Steelband
NIU Steelband 50th Anniversary Choir