Designed for the experienced steelpan student, teacher, or researcher, this 14-day program provides an immersive educational experience for steelpan, calypso, and Caribbean research and specific to the Antiguan experience and history. It will be an intense and hands-on participatory program with some added excursions and events. Our package features extensive daily practice sessions with local steel bands, 4 (2 hour) master-classes, excursions to Betty’s Hope, English Harbor, St Johns, Rainforest, and Devil’s Bridge, multiple “beach days” (optional Barbuda excursion for additional fee), Jouvert, T-Shirt Mas (among other Mas celebrations) and a farewell party (food and drinks provided), double occupancy housing, airport transportation, and steelband instrument use (though individual participants are HIGHLY encouraged to bring their own instrument – especially if they are high voices i.e. tenor through dbl 2nd). Regarding specific bands, you will have the opportunity to work with either Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra or Panache Steel Orchestra. You will also experience and (possibly) perform in the Antigua Carnival Parade. Instructors include: Khan Cordice, Zahra Lake, Gavin Francis, T.J. “Buda” King.
“Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) is a wonderful organization that allows you to gain valuable work experience, contribute to a new community, develop lasting relationships, travel and (in my case) learn a new language. PAA creates a comfortable experience abroad with their assistance and support.”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
PAA Home Base
The Performing Arts Abroad homebase for this program is in a small village called 5 Islands on the west side of Antigua at the Pinkshack Studio Cottages. This will be your home during the program, the meetup point for all excursions and activities, and the place you’ll come to relax after long days, sore hands, and sore feet.
About the Location
Antigua is a very safe, secure and friendly country. VERY small, it’s easy to get around (East to West coast drive in less than an hour!) with beautiful and helpful locals. It is a regular tourist destination for folks that enjoy the “all inclusive” resort experience including Sandals and multiple resort options south in the “English Harbour” region.
The folkloric art in the country expands beyond the amazing steelbands, they have their own calypso kings and beautiful and amazing dance and art programs. But, interestingly, and back to the steelbands…the pride for steelpan is VERY strong there and steelpan is an ensemble that is in all of their public schools. Every October there is a school Panorama that is simply amazing!
The PinkShack Cottages on 5 Islands are in a tropical setting in a remote (yet accessible) village on the island. It is VERY close to some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in Antigua (some less than a mile!). Each cottage has 2 beds including linens, a full bathroom with towels included, and a full kitchen (GREAT for saving $ on food!). All cottages have fans (no air conditioning). Our group occupies all of the cottages on site with the place to ourselves, which creates a great community feel with a cookout station and garden areas to lounge in and relax after long and intense days.
You will share a cottage with another program participant, but our group will be the only ones staying at the cottages, so we have privacy without needing to share with other visitors to the island.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
You wake to the sound of tropical birds in the trees and a warm breeze blowing through your cottage. Your roommate has already gone down to the beach for a swim and to relax in the late morning sun. You yawn and stretch your muscles, sore from the intense rehearsal the night before, preparing for the world’s oldest Panorama steel competition and the vibrant Carnival following it. You realize that in your first few days in Antigua, you’ve learned more than the last few years in the classroom. And you’re just getting started!
Prepare to learn and play a LOT! There is no guarantee that music for rehearsals will be provided ahead of time, and even if it is, MOST of the music will change by the time you arrive and even change from night to night leading up to Panorama. All rehearsals start at 7PM sharp and continue until…done. The earliest a rehearsal has been known to release for the night is 11 PM. The latest was 4 AM and then the band members walked the performance racks the 2.5 miles through the St Johns streets to the performance space. Ending the night around 5:45 AM.
There are somewhere around 100 participants in each band, and the average age of the players is about 20. Very few players are over 40 and the youngest stageside player this season was 5 years old!!! Unlike other Panoramas there is no preliminary or semi competition. Just the one competition night. There are 8 bands on the island and they are all invited to perform. The competition is VERY high between certain groups (actually – Hell’s Gate and Panache have the biggest competition with one another) but the support FOR one another is also very VERY high. All the players know each other and fraternize regularly with each other.
You will book a flight to arrive at V.C. Bird International Airport (also listed as St. Johns – ANU) before noon on the arrival day. You will be greeted at the airport by your two program leaders and taken to the housing on 5 Islands. On the way, we will stop at a grocery store for food and supplies (bottled water is recommended…the water is safe, just…weird tasting).
After some time to settle in an unpack, you will join a welcome meal, followed by an orientation to review the agenda, itineraries, program details, safety, logistics, etc. Then you will take a tour of the surrounding area and meet the band you will be working with during your time in Antigua.
A Typical Day
Your days will be free until 1:00 p.m. Every other day will have an afternoon seminar / masterclass led by one of the local teachers and arrangers. The other days will feature excursions to places like English Harbour, Devil’s Bridge, St. John’s, T-Shirt Mas, other Mas celebrations, etc.
Eat a big dinner because rehearsals start at 7 p.m. sharp and there is no set end time. The rehearsal ends when the director says it ends!
Your two program leaders are Tom Berich and Reynolds Whalen. Tom is a highly experienced veteran steel pan professional, and Reynolds is the Founder and Executive Director of Performing Arts Abroad.
You will be rehearsing with one of two steelbands. Hell’s Gate is the second oldest steelband in the world and has a deep and rich history. It is currently led by Khan Cordice. One of the NEWEST groups is Panache and is led by Zahra Lake.
To see a more extensive bio of Hell’s Gate, please go here.
To see a more extensive bio of Panache, please go here.
Founder and Executive Director
Reynolds graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a degree in Theater and African and African American Studies. For an honors thesis Reynolds filmed, edited, and produced a full-length documentary in Kenya with Haba na Haba, a group using performance for education and social change in the slums of Nairobi. This project earned him the Forum on Education Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. A year later, Reynolds organized a trip to bring Haba na Haba to the United States for a tour of St. Louis and Washington University. Immediately after graduation, Reynolds worked in Rwanda as a filmmaker for Millennium Congregations, an interfaith organization connecting communities of faith in the United States with development projects in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Reynolds then served two years with Teach for America, teaching in the South Bronx and receiving a Masters Degree in Education from Hunter College. He completed a second graduate degree in African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and his Masters thesis focused on the impact of donors on the creative process of Theatre for Development (TfD) groups in Kenya.
Reynolds has traveled extensively in Africa, spending time in Ghana, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studied acting, voice, and movement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Reynolds is a two-time Rhodes Scholarship finalist, the inaugural recipient of the Dred and Harriet Scott Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, and the winner of two research fellowships. He was also a Dialogue Fellow for the Xenia Institute, has twice served as the co-director for the Roosevelt Institution’s International Diplomacy Center (Washington University branch), and was president of the Graduate Students of African Studies (GSAS) at Indiana University.
Most recently, Reynolds was named a winner of the 40 under Forty award honoring business leaders in Western Massachusetts.
Reynolds lives in Greenfield, MA with his wife Julia who is a professional costume designer and his daughters, Lily and Georgia. In his free time Reynolds likes to play his guitar, go hiking, act in local productions, hit the karaoke bars, sing with his dog Captain (the best doggy singer in the universe), and play various yard games such as KanJam, cornhole, “cups”, and Kubb.
Antigua Site Director
A former producer for Nickelodeon, Tom Berich began his steelpan experience as an employee of Ellie Mannette (“The Father of the Modern Steelpan”). His experience with the instrument has taken him to perform on national tours and recording projects. He’s had the privilege of performing on 2 Trinidad Panoramas (Silver Stars 2016, Sforzata 2017). He has started the university ensembles in Southern Oregon University and Southern Missouri University, and directed ensembles at Indiana University, Ohio University and the University of Montana. He has also performed in New York Panorama (Philadelphia Pan Stars, 2018) and Antigua Panorama (2019). In 2019 he performed with the PanRocks: RUSH in Burbank, CA, and was a performer with AZAGUNO for the 25th anniversary celebration of the National Theatre of Ghana. If he could retire and move to Antigua…he’d do it…right now.
“The in-country staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and supportive. Just great!”
Just one unforgettable experience. I made friends for life and I discovered what kind of path I want to make in my career. I also discovered things about myself I didn’t know before. I wish it never ended.
“I really enjoyed the international perspective that I gained from the program. Not only did I feel that I improved in my craft, but I was able to learn valuable lessons from people all over the world!”
How it Works
The information on this page provides details for a sample group program. Note that every group is different, and we will work with you to cater the experience to your group. To connect with us and begin organizing a program for your group, please follow the “Get Started’ button below and submit an initial questionnaire. We will then contact you to set up a discovery call where we can go into more detail about your group’s needs and what we can offer.