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UWI doctorate for pan pioneer

UWI doctorate for pan pioneer

Renowned pan pioneer Anthony Williams was on Saturday presented with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine during the morning graduation ceremony.

In his citation, University Orator, Brian Cockburn noted that Williams, 85, mastered playing the Ping Pong (the first steel pan) at a young age and began experimenting with the oil drum. 

By 1951 he was the lead Ping Pong player with the Northern Stars, and later that year, became a member of the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) which performed at several location in Europe under Musical Director Lieutenant Nathaniel Griffith. 

When Williams returned to Trinidad and Tobago he became the leader of Northern Stars and used his experience with TASPO to change the way the band played. 

He later designed the spider web pan, using the musical theory of “the circle of 5ths,” of which he had no prior knowledge, and so made a physical design to improve the tenor pan. 

During his career, Williams performed at the United Nations Headquarters in New York; at Madison Square Garden in concert with pianist Winifred Atwell; appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show at Carnegie Hall; and won the first TT Music Festival in 1962. Williams was awarded the Humming Bird Medal (Bronze) as well as the Order of the Republic of TT, was recognised as a Caribbean icon, and became the first inductee into the Pan Trinbago Hall of Fame. 

Later in the programme, valedictorian of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, Anne’el Bain, took a trip down memory lane, noting that some initially struggled to adjust to the rigours of tertiary life. 

She said there were challenges and obstacles including personal tragedies, failure, financial hardships, illnesses and broken relationships. “However, here we are. These tumultuous phases increased our self-knowledge and augmented our confidence reserves for future endeavours and life in general,” said Bain. 

She stressed that, equipped with the knowledge they gained, she and her fellow graduates need to “live up to the name of our faculty and seek to improve humanity primarily through education,” Bain then thanked all those who helped them through it all, including relatives, significant others, friends, classmates, lecturers, other UWI staff members and God. 


His achievement was also celebrated with family and friends on Sunday.  

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