Graded examinations in solo steel pan (steel drum) performance were developed in Trinidad and Tobago in 1994 by the Department of Creative and Festival Arts, University of the West Indies. They are held every year in the United States of America and in several Caribbean islands.
Currently the examinations are for frontline pans only, across nine levels, from Preliminary to Grade 8.
Preliminary (pre Grade1) examinations consist of three components
Pieces from different genres
General Musicianship Tests (Aural Skills)
The examinations for Grades 1-8 consist of five components
There are several pan-specific and Caribbean features of these examinations. For example
These new and unique scales are a creation of Trinidadian musician Orville Wright.
Unlike traditional scales they are syncopated and have connecting passages which allows the student to modulate from key to key. They help the student gain facility in moving around the pan and also lay the foundation for improvisation.
Arrangements of Caribbean folk songs and calypsos are a feature of the examinations. These compositions add variety to the student’s repertoire and raise their awareness of music from other cultures.
While graded examinations can be nerve-racking, the student benefits in many ways
For further information, contact
Dr. Anne Osborne,
Department of Creative and Festival Arts,
University of the West Indies,
Trinidad and Tobago