PAN virtuoso Liam Teague continues to rise in musical academia.
The accomplished arranger is now professor of presidential research, scholarship and artistry at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in the United States. Teague was already a professor of music at NIU before his promotion. He is also head of Steelpan Studies at NIU and co-director of the NIU steelband.
Teague’s professorship is the latest on his list of accomplishments which includes the Humming Bird Medal (Silver) and awards for his creation of music that has moved audiences across the globe.
In Europe, he is known as the “Paginini of pan,” a comparison to the Italian composer and violin virtuoso of the 19th century.
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, in congratulating Teague on his professorship, said he is “taking the very best of ourselves and materialising this into the best that the world has seen.” Gadsby-Dolly said his ability to expand the international steelpan movement is laudable and hoped other steelpan arrangers and players would also carry the national instrument to new frontiers at home and abroad.
San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello, who has known Teague since he was a boy, said he always expected great things from him.
“He has not let us down. He has done us proud. He has done San Fernando proud and he has done Trinidad and Tobago proud,” Regrello said.
He recalled his relationship with Teague, which began in 1987 when, as manager of TCL Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra, he came to the rescue of Teague when he gave him a pan to play when he had a performance.
Years later, Teague returned the favour, as the arranger for TCL Skiffle Bunch (now Caribbean Airlines Skiffle Steel Orchestra) on three occasions for Panorama, as well as the World Steelband Festival at Madison Square Garden, New York which Skiffle won in 2005.
Teague has since arranged for other bands, including Silver Stars.
“I have watched Liam grow, from a child prodigy, playing the violin and playing the pan, way back in 1987 when he was a cub scout. Of course, he got a scholarship and went on to study abroad. When I became a member of Pan Trinbago, myself and Richard Forteau went to NIU to do a workshop and it was a pleasure to walk into the classroom, where Liam was the tutor, to sit and watch him take his class through the process.”
Regrello said many Trinidadians have benefited from Teague’s tutorship, including well known pannist Mia Gormandy and Seon Gomez, who have also made a name for themselves internationally.
At NIU, he said, Teague, with the assistance of Ral O’Connor and Trinidadian Cliff Alexis, became the catalyst for the development and success of the steelband faculty.
“He had the opportunity to expose the artform to so many foreigners who were there and when he came to arrange for us a couple years ago, he brought almost his entire class of foreign students to play with us.”
Regrello described Teague as “an embodiment of where the instrument, the modern pannist, should be. He is no longer the future, he is where it is supposed to be. He epitomises that whole package in terms of the preparation process, taking it to the other level. He has all the elements, skills as a pannist, academic background, the expertise, of course, coupled with the very mild demeanour.
“He is a gentleman. In all the years I have known him, I have never seen Liam flustered, get angry or get vex. It is very difficult to fault him, and there are very few people you can say that about in this very dynamic world we live in.
“We recognise and appreciate what he has done for us. He is still a relatively young person and I think this is just the beginning. He has a lot more to accomplish.”
Regrello said he would make a proposal to the committee overseeing the awards for deserving citizens at this year’s San Fernando City Day celebrations for Teague to be included among the recipients.