PRSSV through its graded syllabuses is supporting the development of pan by providing players with the opportunity to gain deserved accreditation alongside other musical instruments. The syllabuses recognise and celebrate the oral tradition as well as introducing the player to written notation and related areas of knowledge and understanding. This inclusion reflects the current movement in Trinidad in that it is seen as part of a vital process for developing the instrument’s equality and status within the whole world music arena.
Steel pans were invented in around 1945 in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago and are the world’s youngest acoustic instruments. Pan has rapidly grown from its beginning as a folk instrument into a world class entity, its international status and popularity being due to its diverse musical capabilities and its accessibility to musicians as an oral tradition. The repertoire for pan is currently predominantly based upon arrangements of existing music, from traditional calypso, to western classical music, jazz and popular music, to include orchestral as well as solo and ensemble works. A number of composers are now writing specifically for pan, and it is also featured in some mixed groups as fusion.
PRSSV Sangeet Examinations offers accredited exams in single and double Soprano Pans. Syllabuses are also currently being developed for double second, double guitar, and triple cello and bass pans.
Working through the syllabuses, students are trained to develop effective technique, knowledge of scales, keys and chords, aural skills and musical features of the genre, as well as the ability to read notation. A viva tests their knowledge of the history of steel pan, the musics of the Caribbean and of the European tradition. Pieces for each grade are chosen from two corresponding lists.
The higher grades include approaches to arranging for steel pans, and the influences of past and existing composers and arrangers upon the development of the tradition and its future. The viva is replaced by a written examination taken in tandem with the practical.
These steel pan examination grades have been developed by Dr Jill Scarfe, David Griffiths, steel pan teacher and arranger (UK) and Terry Noel J.P. (the Steel Band Advisory Service) in consultation with Robert Thompson, steel pan composer and arranger (Trinidad).