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Liam Teague gets prestigious professorship

Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steel Orchestra.

On March 16, Dr Janet Hathaway, Director of the School of Music at Northern Illinois University (NIU) announced that professor Liam Teague had been just named as the latest NIU Presidential Research, Artistry, and Scholarship Professor. The ceremony for this prestigious professorship takes place on April 19 at Altgeld Hall, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.

According to the university, the NIU Presidential Research, Artistry, and Scholarship Professorship was established in the spring of 1982 to support “the research and artistic mission of the university.” The university further notes that faculty who receive the award are “selected based on their work significant and sustained scholarly or creative work, including the achievement of national or international reputation in their individual fields.”

Past recipients of the NIU Presidential Research, Artistry, and Scholarship Professorship represent the best NIU has to offer and only twice before have School of Music faculty received the award. In the awards inaugural year—1982—noted School of Music faculty member and noted composer Dr Jan Bach was a recipient. Several years later Professor Bach sought out a young Liam Teague, who was an NIU undergraduate student at the time, as the soloist and inspiration for his Concerto for Steelpan and Orchestra back in 1994—a composition Teague has since performed all over the world. In a sense, the award has now come full circle in recognising Teague’s service to NIU, work directing the steelpan program at NIU, concertizing around the world, and work arranging for the National Panorama competition in T&T, most recently for Nutrien Silver Stars Steel Orchestra.

Teague is thrilled to win the award, noting, “I am grateful to NIU for recognising my contributions and I feel extremely honored to be held in such high esteem. I will continue to serve NIU and Trinidad and Tobago to the best of my ability.”

Teague has little time to enjoy the award, however, as the new professorship provides for a semester off and a financial component, though Teague has yet to decide when he will take his leave or what his focus will be when he does.

Teague’s early plans may involve commissioning new compositions and/or arrangements for steelpan in support his continual mission to artistically progress steelpan further into the 21st century. He has previously commissioned numerous solo and duo pieces for steelpan as well as concertos for orchestra.

Last Fall 2017 Teague performed a new concerto for steelpan and wind symphony at NIU written by the composer Kevin Bobo. Videos of this performance and several other newly commissioned pieces for steelpan are available on his website at

Since returning to NIU after Carnival, Teague has enjoyed a very busy semester as the NIU Steelpan programme prepares for several concerts both on and off campus. The NIU Steelband has performed around the Chicago-area in churches and schools and even at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

On campus, the NIU Community School for the Arts Steelband, All University Steelband, and Steelpan Studio recital will be held on April 7. Two steelpan student recitals — Khadija King from Trinidad (April 28 graduate recital) and Zahra Lake from Antigua & Barbuda (April 21 undergraduate recital) — will also be held and the big NIU Steelband spring concert is set for Sunday, April 22 with a return appearance by one of the world’s leading steelpan virtuosos , Victor Provost. As always, these concerts feature incredibly varied repertories and are broadcast free via the internet through the NIU Music Department webcast.

In addition to his work with students, Teague has performed in his duo Panangelic with harpist Faye Seeman and has made several guest appearances, lectures, and performances this semester in Toronto, Bahamas, Wisconsin, and at the University of Akron and Miami University in Ohio. Perhaps after being awarded the NIU Presidential Research, Artistry, and Scholarship Professorship Teague will be able to present a concert in Trinidad with his newly commissioned pieces.

Ray Funk is a retired Alaskan judge and a Fulbright scholar who is passionately devoted to calypso, pan and mas. Dr. Andrew Martin is an ethnomusicologist, percussionist, pannist, and Professor of Music at Inver Hills College in St Paul, Minnesota.


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