SANDRA L BLOOD
The Paganini of the Steelpan as he’s favourably dubbed, is the humble, illustrious, highly-decorated Professor of Music, Director of Steelpan Studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and renowned leader of the NIU Steelband, Liam Teague, a native of San Fernando, Trinidad.
Teague received the Key to the San Fernando City on November 30, 2022 from the mayor of the city, Alderman Junia Regrello, during a function hosted by him at his office – an occasion that wrapped-up the 34th Anniversary celebration of the city.
For those who were not aware of why Teague is described as the Paganini of pan, or how gifted he is as a composer, his performance of Lord Kitchener’s Pan Night and Day after his acceptance speech, and the rendition, Hands Like Lightening, composed by him and performed by guest artiste, Venezuelan José Henriques, 23, demonstrated.
On December 13, Teague exposed Guardian Media to his pan and music journey.
“My commitment to demonstrating the musical possibilities of the steelpan took me throughout the world, and not only have I received many awards and accolades from the US, but also from T&T, including the Hummingbird National Award (Silver) and the ANSA McAL Caribbean Award for Excellence.” From the US, in part, an NIU Board of Trustees Professorship Award this year, 2022, and a Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor Award in 2018.
During his acceptance speech, Professor Teague stated, he chose to speak from his heart because it is more organic. Summarized: Even though he has “received many accolades, especially in the USA, there is always something very special about being recognized by the place of my birth.”
Teague also apprised of some of what he has been up to over the years, and amplified just how much he would like to have more of a presence in T&T, as he’s deeply passionate about helping people. He said he’s extremely fortunate to do what he absolutely loves in life 24/7, and he would love to serve as a mentor to young musicians.
Teague has appeared in concert with Grammy-Award-winning musicians Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Samuels, Zakir Hussain and Dame Evelyn Glennie, and has regularly collaborated with NIU colleagues and multi-instrumentalists seeing him co-founded the steel ensemble, Pangelic, He’s won several notable competitions such as the Trinidad and Tobago National Steelband Festival Solo Championship and the Saint Louis Symphony Volunteers Association Young Artist Competition.
He’s performed with a series of pan outfits. Apart from T&T’s Nutrien Silver Stars and the bp Renegades Steel Orchestras, the National Symphony Orchestra, in part, Taiwan National Symphony, Czech National Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Avalon String Quartet, Nexus, Dartmouth Wind Ensemble, Indiana University Symphonic Band, and University of Wisconsin-Madison Marching Band.
Teague has also benefitted the Percussive Arts Society International Conventions (PASIC), many educational institutions across the globe, the International Pan Ramajay Competition and Virginia Arts Festival – PANorama Caribbean Music Festival.
Many of his compositions and arrangements are published with MaumauMusic, PanPress, RamajayMusic, and Wendeln Music Works. He has commissioned outstanding composers to write for the steelpan with some being Michael Colgrass, Jan Bach, Libby Larsen, Andy Akiho, Deborah Fisher Teason, Joey Sellers, Ben Wahlund, Kevin Bobo, Robert Chappell, Geof Bradfield, Casey Cangelosi, Gustavo Leone, Victor Provost, and Etienne Charles.
He is the steelband director at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Door County, Wisconsin, and has also taught and performed at the California State University Summer Arts Camp and at the Interlochen Academy for the Performing Arts.
The world’s largest publisher of print music, Hal Leonard Corporation, has published Teague’s steelpan method for beginners.
Professor Liam Teague has created arrangements for the most celebrated steelband competition in the world, T&T’s National Panorama, and has many recordings to his credit, including Hands Like Lightning, For Lack of Better Words, Panoramic: Rhythm Through an Unobstructed View and Open.
The incomparable Professor revealed he would like to form stronger ties with local steel orchestras where he can provide possible scholarships and tuition waivers accordingly. He has facilitated scholarships for young Trinbagonians to attend summer music camp at the Birch Creek Music and Performance Academy.
Regrello said that Teague profoundly impacted him given his unceasing accomplishments which inspired him to bestow upon him the Key. Teague thanked Regrello for having never given up on him. At that function, Teague was invited to visit his place of birth at any time, “key or no key.”
Continuing to radiate, on December 11, the San Fernandian Pan beacon received another outstanding achievement. He became NIU’s Commencement Ceremonies Macebearer.
Teague extends greetings to San Fernando and T&T at large, and said he’s further humbled by the two rewards.
“I wish my native homeland a peaceful and loving season and great new year. No matter what, I will always celebrate T&T, and I’m eternally grateful.”