Summer Term

Panyard Politics:

Music, Culture, and Community in Trinidad

How did the African diaspora transform slavery, colonization, steel, and oil into one of the Caribbean’s most vibrant and recognizable musical traditions? Explore the history and culture of Steelpan music by learning from local experts in Trinidad.

Program Structure

This is a hybrid course that includes three weeks in Trinidad with two weeks of online course work. In Trinidad students will be based at the Exodus Steel Orchestra Panyard in the Tuna Puna area of Port of Spain. Students should also expect a significant amount of travel throughout the island. Daily schedules will include steelband rehearsals led by local steelpan experts, discussions and lectures (all in English) led by local practitioners of the Carnival Arts (Mas, Calypso, Moko Jumbie), and field visits that highlight the cultural, political, and environmental diversity of Trinidad and Tobago.

Topics & Themes

Music Performance, Ethnomusicology, Anthropology, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Globalization, African & African American Studies, Nationalism, Gender Equality, Transmigration and Diaspora Studies, Education Systems, National Identity and Community Building, History of Colonization in the Caribbean, Tourism and its Impacts on Local Communities, Youth Development.


Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

Terms & Dates

May 18- June 19, 2020 (May 25th- June 14th in Trinidad), online coursework one week before and one week after


6 semester credits, depending on your institution.

Program Overview

The steelpan (sometimes called “steel drum”), perhaps more than any other instrument symbolizes the cultural, political, and economic shockwaves unleashed by European colonization of the Caribbean. Fashioned out of recycled 55-gallon oil barrels, the steelpan reflects both the cultural genius of the African diaspora in the Americas, and the exploitative orientation of our global capitalist system. This brutal alchemy of slavery, colonization, steel, and oil spawned one of the Caribbean’s most vibrant and recognizable musical traditions. Invented in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s, the steelpan has cultural and musical roots in West African drumming and bamboo-stomping ensembles called “Tamboo Bamboo,” which historically provided parade music for Afro-Trinidadians during Carnival. Perhaps Trinidad’s greatest contribution to the global steelband movement is its use as a vehicle for youth empowerment. Panyards in Trinidad are often dedicated community safe spaces. This forges connections between steelbands and local communities, nurturing a sense of self-worth and community pride. This custom HECUA program is a hybrid course that includes two weeks in Trinidad with three weeks of online course work prior to departure and another two weeks upon return to the United States. While in Trinidad, students are based at the Exodus Steel Orchestra Panyard in the Tuna Puna area. There, students are introduced to some of Trinidad’s most prominent steelpan musicians, composers, and producers as part of their own creative and collective musical participation in Afro- and Indo-Caribbean music. Non-western musical instruction will be complemented by daily seminars focused on the Carnival Arts (Mas, Calypso, Moko Jumbie), and field visits that highlight the cultural, political, and environmental diversity of Trinidad and Tobago. Special attention will be devoted to how steelpan communities have seized this cultural resource as a tool for youth development, community organizing, and economic empowerment.

Staff and Faculty

Andrew Martin

Program Director Andrew R. Martin, Ph.D., is Professor of Music at Inver Hills College, St. Paul, Minnesota where he teaches courses in music history, music analysis, percussion, and directs the African music ensemble and steelband. Martin is a sought-after clinician throughout the United States and Internationally and he is Director of Steelbands for Twin Cities Carifest. Martin’s research explores Globalization, Caribbean Music and Movements, Tourism, American music, and popular and folk music and musicians during the Cold War. He has published widely on the above topics and presented numerous lectures and conference papers throughout the United States, Canada, Caribbean, Europe, and China. His research has appeared in several print sources including the journals American Music, Pan Podium: The Journal of the British Steel Band Society, The Journal of New York Folklore, and in reference works such as the Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is the author of the books Steelpan Ambassadors: The US Navy Steel Band 1957-1999 and Steelpan in Education: A History of the Northern Illinois University Steelband. Since 2011, Martin has written a semi-regular newspaper column “Pan Worldwide” in the Trinidad Guardian.

Course Information

Program Syllabus

You’ll find the complete projected syllabus for the 2020 Trinidad custom program here. Trinidad Study Abroad Syllabus HECUA 2020


Internships are not possible during this program, because of its length.

Program Costs

This program costs $4,300 for consortium members and $4,500 for non-consortium members. Round trip airfare to and from Trinidad, ground travel to field sites, food, lodging, and medical insurance are included.

Good to Know

This is a hybrid course that includes online course work and time onsite. Students complete two weeks of online course work prior to travel to Port of Spain, and another one week upon return to the U.S. The program will follow the schedule outlined below:

  • May 18-22: online coursework
  • May 25-June 14: Tuna Puna Trinidad
  • June 14-June 19: online coursework

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