UWI St. Augustine Mourns Passing of Honorary Graduate, Musician Anthony Williams

Anthony Williams


“The world has, indeed, lost a giant. May he travel well” said Campus Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) St. Augustine Campus, Professor Brian Copeland. He was commenting on the passing of Honorary Graduate, Anthony Williams. "He was, perhaps, the most significant contributor to the development of the technology of the steelpan musical instrument and the associated art in performance, because of his triple role as an inventor, arranger, and steel orchestra captain," he added.

In the 1950s, Mr Williams invented the 4ths-and-5ths note layout pattern, now standard on the tenor steelpan and the basis of the note layouts on three of the four G-pans invented at The UWI in 2007. The pattern was first used on his spiderweb pan, which he tuned so that the anti-clockwise sequence of notes around any given ring, assumes a progression of musical 5ths while the note sequence along a sector defined by two adjacent radii produces a progression of musical octaves. His inventions were all music-driven and came during his tenure as captain, musical director and tuner of the Pan Am North Stars Steel Orchestra. This steelband was the first to appear on US nationwide television (the Ed Sullivan show in 1964); the first to transpose music for symphonic orchestras into steelband scores (Johann Strauss’s Voices of Spring in the 1962 Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival) which set the template for steelband arrangements for years to come.

In 1968 Pan Am North Stars joined with Trinidad and Tobago’s internationally celebrated pianist, Winifred Atwell, in a series of performances locally, in the Bahamas and at Madison Square Garden in New York. By placing bass pans on wheels, he made it possible for the road band to remain mobile and perform full orchestral arrangements. Six decades ago, he was emphasizing the importance of music literacy for all pannists and, though self-taught, established classes in his North Stars panyard. In recognition of his experience and competence, Williams was made a member of the first steelpan technology research team at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute. He has been recognised by the National Institute of Higher Education Research Science and Technology (NIHERST) as a Caribbean Icon and was awarded the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the nation’s highest award in 2008. In 2016, he was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by The UWI for inspired innovation, and for his national, regional, and global contributions in the field of culture.

The UWI St. Augustine Campus extends condolences to the family and friends of Anthony Williams.


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