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Maroon Steel–Steel Pan Ensemble

Maroon Steel steel pan ensemble.

Maroon Steel is a student organization founded in 2013 under the supervision of Performance Studies' faculty member Dr. Kim Kattari. This organization is committed to celebrating the art of steel pan music, which was developed on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago.

What are steel pans? Steel pans are percussion instruments made from 55-gallon oil drums first deployed for that purpose in the mid-twentieth century. A&M’s Maroon Steel plays traditional steel pan music such as calypso and soca as well as contemporary pieces from composers worldwide who have been influenced by jazz, funk, pop, and classical music. On some occasions they even perform pieces arranged by members of the ensemble themselves. Maroon Steel also offers presentations and workshops across campus, educating students about the historical and cultural context of steel pan and the group’s specific performing style.

When student president Jack Bahmer was asked what makes steel pan a unique form of musical performance, he replied that traditional pan music is generally learned by ear, rather than from sheet music. Dr. Kattari is a firm supporter of the ensemble, speaking enthusiastically about how each individual learns their own part while working together to arrange and develop pieces collaboratively within the group.

When asked what he wanted people to understand about Maroon Steel, Jack stated, “I wish people knew more about the history of the instrument and about opportunities to play and listen to steel pan music here at A&M.” Joining this group requires no previous musical experience. Maroon Steel is always looking for new members, who wish to be enriched by the history of the art form.

—Bethany Soukanya