Edu-tainment! An Awesome Assembly

Edu-tainment! An Awesome Assembly

IMG_1284Last week, THE Potts & Pans Trio drove up to Kenosha, WI to present at Mahone Middle School. We frequently do these in school performances through our new company, Culture, Arts & Music, and are always excited for a new opportunity to teach. This time around, we were at the start of the day, bright and early. One of my old professors used to say “It’s unnatural for musicians to be up this early!” but we made it work nonetheless. Mostly, this was thanks to the huge amount of help we received from the Mahone students!

IMG_1289It was really a treat for us to see how well this school operates, and how student driven all the activities were. When we first arrived, we had a sixth grader waiting for us at the door. He was very professional, introduced himself, and showed us where we needed to go. A few minutes and a couple introductions later, we were on the stage, bus pulled up to the loading dock, and setting up for the show. The stage was gorgeous, with a nice house that competes with most high school auditoriums. As we were getting our instruments on stage, a full crew of students began working with us to provide and sound check microphones, adjust lighting needs, pull curtains as needed, and finalize any stage set up. These guys were all very well trained, very easy to work with, and are definitely on the right track to working in the biz!

IMG_1293Our performance at Mahone was full on Edu-tainment, our special combination of education and entertainment! We had the full set of sixth graders, and we were giving them a taste of how music came from Africa and influenced Latin America. We were able to have students come join us on stage as we performed the various forms of music on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. We began with the traditional African Percussion, moved to Tamboo-Bamboo after the banning of skin headed drums, then to the metal scraps, and closed with the modern steelpan. We also demonstrated how in other countries like Brazil (where there was no ban on skin headed drums) the progression ended differently with the current bateria from the samba school.

IMG_1299 Of course, we also continued with a bit more into the development of the steelpan. We showed the inside of the bowl, explained tuning, and discussed the different voices. We performed classical music and talked about TASPO’s trip to London. Throughout every part of the assembly, the kids were interested and engaged. When we needed volunteers, they were all eager to participate and did a really great job with the instruments and rhythms we were teaching them. They were all very attentive, and very thankful afterwards. I can safely say this was one of the smoothest and most enjoyable assemblies we’ve had the pleasure of putting on.
And we would love to do more! See here how a Potts & Pans assembly, provided by Culture, Arts & Music can fit into your school’s curriculum. If you are a teacher or administator, send us an email and let us know what type of assembly you are looking for. Parent? Student? Contact us as well if you want us at your school, and we’ll call your administration directly! Looking forward to our next assembly. Final Note – the pictures you see of our show in Mahone, also taken by the students! These kids really run the school :)


AJH, out.


Using Pan To Help Fundraise

Using Pan To Help Fundraise

This past weekend, The Potts & Pans Trio headed out to The Onion Pub to help out a local school. The school was SS Peter and Paul Catholic School, which all of our loyal followers might recognize that we did an assembly at this school towards the end of the last school year! Matt Potts DJThe school has an annual Gala in order to help raise funds for the year and Potts & Pans was thrilled to be involved! When Lisa first contacted us and explained the time frame of the night (6-11PM) we immediately started discussing the different options we can provide to keep the costs down. We ultimately decided on having a solo steelpan performer start the night off, having a trio play some mellow calypso and jazz during dinner, then having the trio switch over to higher energy soca and pop after the live auction lead by Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager before finishing off the night with a DJ. This style of performance allowed us to provide entertainment all night and still stay under budget.

Matt Potts Solo Steelpan With Up Lights At Onion PubAll and all, this was a great night! The event color theme was turquoise and both Anthony and myself were able to don turquoise shirts and pocket squares and matched their color perfectly! We always enjoy going this extra step for our clients, and Lisa and Anne Marie certainly appreciated it. The Great Hall at The Onion Pub was a beautiful setting and with our new up-lights, we were really able to put together a great looking set up to keep everything looking great for the night. We had a ton of fun preparing some great pop tunes like John Legend’s “All of Me,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About The Bass,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” Pharrell’s “Happy” and more! (Watch for videos of some of these pop tunes to be coming soon!) The Gala turned out to be a huge success and people loved our music. This was a really fun night, and thanks again to Lisa for getting us involved! It was an honor to be a part of helping raise funds for this great school and we hope you exceeded your goals for the night.


Ursäkta mig! Time to Talk Steelpan

Ursäkta mig! Time to Talk Steelpan

Potts & Pans frequently gets invited to cultural events. We’ve been known to play at general cultural fairs and parades, frequently have performed at Caribbean festivals, and have even found our way into repeated Oktoberfest events. Yesterday, we were thrilled to be part of the Swedish Cultural Society of Chicago’s October Meeting.

After club organizer Per-Hugo Kristenssen saw us perform at the Park Ridge Library, he contacted Matt and was excited to have us play for the Society. Matt and I had the plan together for our regular Potts & Pans duo performance, but as we so often do, realized a way to make the performance even better for our client. Anna “Cammie” Howell, member of our community band who you may remember from GLSF15 performing “Song of Sunrise” with the P&P Professional group, is half Swedish! She also happens to be a rather accomplished uker. All in all, Anna was the perfect way for us to fill out a trio for the Swedish Society. So, as Matt and I were heading out to our various performances on Saturday (Matt had a wedding, and I was playing Timpani in Libertyville), I called Anna and asked if she would be available for a performance with Matt and I the next day. An hour later, she stepped up and said she was good to go – Three cheers for Cammie!IMG_7914

That being said, there’s a reason one of our Community Band hashtags is #cammiefreaksout. When she first arrived to the shop in the morning, Matt and I were bombarded with a long and exaggerated explanation of why she chose black skirt over black pants for the performance. We were able to calm her down and discussed instrumentation options. Anna would stay on Uke, while Matt and I traded sets between Cajon & Seconds. And although it remains that #cammiefreaksout, she did an excellent job jumping in on all of our music in a single rehearsal.

And off to Chicago we went! The Swedish Cultural Society meets monthly at the Irving Park Lutheran Church. This church was absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows and an elaborate marble carving made standing in the sanctuary a stunning experience. Upstairs in the reception room, we set up for our performance, while the Society set up for their meeting. Amongst their set up stood a full size United States flag, next to the Swedish flag. Per-Hugo knew the history of these particular flags and told us how that US flag had been flown over the capital building in Washington, and the Swedish flag was personally delivered to the Society by the King of Sweden!

IMG_7912Before our performance, the Society held their monthly meeting, going over financial details and discussing future events. The meeting was flavored with historical stories that Per-Hugo was well versed in. It quickly became clear that he was quite educated in both US and Swedish history, along with most countries that have interacted with either nation! It’s not every gig that comes with a free history lesson – anyone wanting to learn some should check out the Swedish Cultural Society’s next meeting on November 1st!

Once it was time for our performance, we brought in a few history lessons of our own. The Society was thrilled to hear how the steelpan came to its invention in Trinidad & Tobago, and how the instruments are built and tuned. We played calypsos, socas, american rock, jazz standards and bossa charts. We set up my Cajon from TheBoxKit, along with both our sets of seconds with the uke inbetween. The members asked us questions throughout, and were pleasantly interested in the information we had to share, as well as pleased with the music we had to play. Per-Hugo shared more about the countries he’s studied or the stories he’s heard, and then Anna taught Matt and I a few words in Swedish!

The performance ended and we enjoyed coffee and light Swedish fare while getting to talk with the members a bit more about our music as well as the dealings in the Swedish Cultural Society. Overall this performance was a wonderful trade in knowledge, and having such an attentive audience who enjoyed our music so much made it even better.

10.4 Swedish Gig

On the way home we stopped at Olive Garden, a band favorite due to Matt and my own love of endless breadsticks, and grabbed dinner for the three of us. Excellent performance finished, we were again reminded how #cammiefreaksout, only this time we witnessed her go into an endless stream of helpless laughter! Regardless, dinner was a delicious end to a wonderful performance. We went home, and are looking forward to our next adventure. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss all the action!

Until next time,


Cool Evening, Great Wedding!

Cool Evening, Great Wedding!

Let me start this off by congratulating Maggie and Aaron again on their beautiful wedding. Now, let’s get into some details.

To start off with, Aaron called me in the middle of September and explained his situation. Originally, him and Maggie planned on getting married later but circumstances forced them to make it happen sooner. He called hoping that Potts & Pans still had a performer available for a special treat for his soon to be wife. He explained how much she loved steelpan and he wanted to surprise her with having us play at their wedding that would take place on 10/3/15. I was happy to tell him that another performance had backed out and that I was personally available to be there! No need for any more details than that, moving on.

Potts & Pans Three Oaks Crystal LakeFast forward to the day of the wedding. I show up to Three Oaks Recreational Center in Crystal Lake, IL (nice to have a home show!) and must say I was blown away by this place! Although I have driven by Three Oaks hundreds of times, I have never actually been there. Upon pulling in, I could not believe how beautiful it was! Crystal Lake really did a great job putting this park together, it is an absolutely gorgeous location for a wedding. Although I could go on about this place, I have digressed from what really matters: Aaron and Maggie.

Aaron and Maggie took a very low key approach to their wedding, and pulled it off perfectly! Keeping things simple with modest table dressings, guests in comfortable clothes, a pig roast for food and a canoe for a bar really made this a comfortable and friendly wedding. Potts & Pans Canoe BarIt didn’t matter that I had never met, or even talked with, Maggie or anybody else before. This comfortable setting and the warmth of the guests made EVERYBODY there family. This wasn’t a great wedding because of the setting though. This was a great wedding because of the people!

Aaron had told me early on that he was a fire fighter and that this would be a small wedding with guests almost completely made up of fellow fire fighters and police officers. This certainly is not my first time working with firemen and cops, but I never ceased to be amazed at how great of people they really are! There were multiple people there that couldn’t offer enough help to me throughout the evening. While tearing down the Potts & Pans tent, four guys instantly came over and started helping out and making jokes like I was just one of their long time buddies. I have done some gigs for some great people, but nobody has ever jumped up to help me like that and make me feel like such a part of the family that was there. After getting the tent down, a few other guys came over and carried all my equipment to Lolita (the van) while I carried a single stand! While I was loading things into Lolita, they continued to joke around with me while a couple of scuba divers brought gear to their car parked next to me. These guys then offered to help them! Who does that! Here are a couple of complete strangers (not even part of the wedding in anyway) and these guys immediately offer to help them out! They also offered them food from the wedding and invited them to hang out. Being a part of such incredible acts of kindness juxtaposed against all the negative media lately about cops, and fire fighters being lumped with them at times, it’s maddening to see how people take for granted these incredible individuals. Here are people that put their lives on the line to save strangers so it really should be no surprise they don’t think twice to offer their help with such a mundane task like loading equipment!

Matt Potts & Pans with Bride and GroomIt has been said that birds of a feather flock together and it seems like Aaron and Maggie are part of one great flock. From the little bit that I worked with Aaron, I sensed what a genuinely caring person he is and I was very excited to actually meet him and his new wife. Upon meeting them both, and their friends/family, it is easy to say that these two great people seem to be set up to have a wonderful life together. I can’t thank Maggie and Aaron enough for allowing me to be a part of their special day. I can certainly tell that they both sincerely appreciated me being there. It really is a great feeling to have the bride immediately come over to me after the ceremony and just watch me for a while before exclaiming “That is so cool!” Aaron did a marvelous job pulling off the surprise steelpan music, and Maggie could not have been happier.

I wish the very best to Maggie and Aaron and truly hope to cross paths with them again. They both seem like wonderful people and I couldn’t be happier for them.Potts & Pans Obrien Wedding Crystal LakePS – Check out the picture showing the pocket square with the table cloth and snack bucket to see how close we matched their colors! Color win for Matt!


August with Anthony

August with Anthony

Summers with Potts & Pans are fantastic! We have so many things going on, that often Matt, Christina and Myself have to split up responsibilities and spread out to cover multiple shows at once! During the month of August, I was able to take lead or do solo performances for a number of really cool gigs. Some of these were private events, but if you missed any of the public ones, you should probably LIKE us of facebook to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore :)



Capture2Potts & Pans does a lot of weddings. We offer cocktail hours, reception music, ceremony music, DJ services, or anything else you need to make your wedding the perfect day! We’ll also match your colors, as we have shirts in almost every shade. For me, I had two weddings in August that were both AWESOME! Capture3First up, I went up to the Abbey Resort in Fontanta on Lake Geneva. After our many trips up here to play at Gordy’s Boat House, it was fun to see a bit more of the town. I was happy to work with the Bride, Ashley, to prepare everything for their cocktail hour. This was an outdoors performance playing solo steelpan. I brought my double seconds, and of course, used my 4 PP8b8CF blues from the Steelpan Store (definitely my favorite mallet for seconds!) The big surprise was Ashley wanted me to learn a few Mumford & Sons tunes to play. We are always happy to learn new music for our clients, so when she asked if I could play any Mumford, I looked some up, and put together this quick sample using my iPhone and she loved it. So I got a list of 6 Mumford tunes, mixed it in with some of our Caribbean favorites, and the cocktail hour was a success. To add to the fun, when I got out of my car I noticed I was parked next to a Felix & Fingers car! Mike and Emily were also at the Abbey playing for the reception of another couples wedding. That’s right, we’re taking over!


The following weekend, I was back in Wisconsin, but this time went all the way up to Kohler. I took our Van, Lolita, who is guarded by Clifford. Look out for the #CliffordGoes hashtag to see where he’s off to next! IMG_7577I had worked with the bride, Cindy, for a long time putting together her wedding. Potts & Pans was there for the entire event. First, I played some solo double seconds for the ceremony down by the lake. The weather was beautiful, and the service was barefoot and flawless. The main attraction was the trio, in which I was joined by P&P members Emily and Aras for a Steelpan/Vibes/Drum group, and we played for a cocktail double hour before dinner. During dinner my guys were able to catch some delicious sandwiches (mine was patiently waiting for me to eat it later), while I went inside for some more solo seconds during the dinner time. With all the moving from place to place to play, the whole night went super smoothly and I was thrilled at the reactions I was hearing from all the guests. One even referred to me as “Joe Locke!” Flattering, undeserved, but still super awesome to hear 😀 After dinner, I rejoined the team and we did another hour of trio work for the final portion of the reception. We were able to grab a nice photo with the couple and our instruments, and talk with some guests afterwards. The couple has always loved the Caribbean and having the steelpan at their wedding was the “perfect addition to the day.” Add on the facts that all of their IMG_7578guests were super polite, receptive to the music, the venue was gorgeous and the weather was ideal, this was a truly enjoyable performance.IMG_7590








Capture4Another particularly exciting show for me last month was my return to the Anvil Club. Last year I performed for their Luau Pig Roast, and everyone loved it, so they had me come back this year! The food, as anticipated, was expertly prepared, and the event was another success. They had door prizes of wine and gift cards, and the guests got to enjoy the beautiful decorations, delicious food, and the great sounds of double seconds throughout the night. Although we had a rainy end to the day, it held off until right at the end of the event, so all the guests had a great time, I just got a little wet while loading my car!


This place is awesome! This was the site of my first duo gig with Potts & Pans. This has been the site of a number of great solo, duo, and community band performances. The venue is awesome! If you live anywhere near northern Illinois and you haven’t seen their Green House you need to go immediately! Furthermore, they host a weekly event over the summer called “Tunes on the Terrace” and this year I had two different shows during August. Being able to split roles, I did a full night of Steelpan,Capture5 IMG_7564showcasing its versatility as a solo instrument, it’s ability to perform a wide variety of musical styles, and discuss a bit of its rich, and very very recent history. Later in the month, I returned for a full night of solo vibraphone. This time I focused on Jazz tunes, playing standards in the standard style, mixing in a few newer elements, and even performing a few originals. Both shows were attened by a large and appreciative audience. For the vibraphone show, I was thrilled to hear a lot of “you should’ve seen this guy last time — he plays steelpan!” while I was setting up. I also got to meet a fellow vibes player and world war II vet, Dick, at the vibraphone performance and share stories of moving these things around and playing combo gigs. This was definitely a great way to close out the month for me, and I can’t wait to head back to the gardens next season.


That’s all for now folks,



Sharing Pan

Sharing Pan

Steelpan School Assembly with Potts & PansI have to start this blog post out by thanking a couple people. The reason for this post is because of the work that Jan Bosman and Erica Burke have done. If you don’t stalk me on Facebook, there is a good chance you have no idea what I’m talking about. These two women took interest in what I do for a living. Everything from working part time at my dad’s powersports dealership (Jim Potts Motor Group), to the work I do with Crystal Lake South High School and, of course, the work I do with all the various aspects of the steelpan.

I’m not writing this blog entry to restate everything they already said, you are certainly as capable of reading their words as you are for reading mine (and they are better writers than me!). Check out the article I’m talking about on McHenry County Living’s website. The reason I’m writing this post though, is to thank not only Jan Bosman and Erica Burke, but to also thank everybody that has supported me or has taken an interest in what I do.

Giving up an engineering scholarship to pursue making a career out of steelpan was not an easy decision. However, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else and am grateful that I have had people to stand with me. Every time I give a performance, or work with any of my students, I am in awe that this is what I do and to see support from people who would otherwise be strangers to me, is incredible.

RockTeaching.jpgIt’s not just the students that I work with, the people that attend the Great Lakes Steelpan Festival, or the people that hire myself, Potts & Pans or Culture, Arts and Music, but it is also the every day people that stop me at the post office and say “aren’t you that steelpan guy?” or the parent that I happen to do other business with that says “you worked with my child last summer and she still hasn’t stopped talking about how cool that was!” These events are starting to be more of a regular occurrence, and it never ceases to amaze me at the lives that I have been able to touch. Some may think that I am referring to the recognition or pseudo-local-celebrity status that seems to be developing, but that’s not what really excites me. What really excites me, is that just 10 years ago most of the people that now recognize me as “the steelpan guy” or “that guy from Potts & Pans” probably didn’t even know what a steelpan was. Although it is a slow process, I am seeing that I am actually making a difference in spreading steelpan and reaching more and more people.

To bring everything back to the article, the fact that this magazine that features events and people from McHenry county showed such an interest in what I am doing shows that more people are aware of the steelpan. Every now and then something, like this article, forces me to take a step back and look at my life. It’s at times like this that I realize all the work and struggles are far outweighed by what I am accomplishing. I am nowhere near where I am going and seeing local support and interest grow fuels me to keep pushing further. I have been attracted to pan since I discovered it existed in 2004, and to see how local interest and knowledge of this beautiful instrument has grown over just 3 short years, proves to me that this instrument is truly something special and that I am here to help showcase it to more people. Additionally, I must thank the people of Trinidad and Tobago for giving the world this beautiful instrument. I am forever thankful for all who have come before me to develop this instrument and lead to one getting into my hands.

photo-23Now that you have made it to the bottom of my spewage of gratitude lined with disbelief, thank you for caring about what I have to say! The fact that you took time out of your day and actually read this post that I wrote is exactly the type of thing that I referred to a couple paragraphs ago. Some of you may have known me prior, some of you may have known the steelpan prior, but some of you haven’t and that is what fuels me to keep going. Thank you! Now you should go read something a professional writer has to say :) McHenry County Living Article

Back to the Gardens

The scenery behind the average Potts & Pans gig is the inside of a building. Often we get nice and well prepared decorations IMG_6476to showcase a tropical theme, and sometimes we play outside near a waterfront, or among some large trees. Altogether, the beautiful scenery provided by the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is a very well received break from the norm. Potts & Pans has played here many times before. This was actually the site of my first Vibes & Pan duo performance with Matt many years ago. Since then we’ve gone back for more duets and plenty of solo performances as well. Around New Years, I got a call from Joy, and she told me about an awesome event they were planning, the “Winter Warm Up.” So, we tossed ideas around for a few days, and eventually decided that a mix between a few of our options throughout the event would be best. So, on February 22nd, Potts & Pans loaded up and headed off to Rockford.

The large attraction for this performance was the Potts & Pans Community Band, giving their first performance of the semester. You may remember this group last semester at their Toys for Tots Benefit Concert, but whether you’ve seen them or not, you don’t want to miss their next performance at the Great Lakes Steelpan Festival. Tickets for this are are already available! With most of our community band shows, we load up The Lady and take everybody to the performance. This time, we ran into a unique hurdle, which Potts & Pans was ready to conquer, when our group had grown so large we could not fit the entire band and all of the instruments in the bus! Fortunately, Lolita (have you seen our van? She went to Florida with us!) was waiting in the wings and filled up with the remaining equipment and personnel that didn’t fit into The Lady.

Once we arrived, those visiting the gardens for the first time were thrilled with its beauty. Those of us who had been there before were still impressed, and pleased to be reunited with some old friends. The band set up in the opening foyer, and was joined with crafts, smoothies, and hula dancers. The crowds began to flow in, and our music began to ring out. IMG_6479All the guests were trilled with the sound, which resonated throughout the room. It was awesome to see the smiles creep onto everyone’s faces as we started another tune. The community band rocked the house with their numbers, leaving myself and the other directors tickled pink with their performance.

Giving the community band members a few breaks, THE Potts & Pans Trio (Matt Potts, Christina Guerrero, and myself) filled in a few sets with our normal repertoire. We had no vibes for this one, which, to my disappointment was probably for the best. At the gig before my pedal assembly broke, which I fixed, but then a few bars went out of tune! Turns out they were cracked and are getting replaced now :( This, I understand, was the problem with the thin bar Jencos, but makes me even more excited for the Vanderplas I have on the way! Regardless of instrumentation, the three of us were rockin’.trio Trio plus commI was thrilled to have the chance to play some seconds without disruption, as the night before brought about quite the adventure, and even played some tenor bass for my favorite, Sugar Bum Bum. Best of all, we welcomed up a few of the Community Band members who had been playing for awhile to fill in on a few tunes. Although #CammieFreaksOut, she still had a great time filling in bass lines on the 6 bass, and began to freak out with excitement after getting a glimpse at what our careers are like. “You guys just play music and make people smile, this is the best job ever!” — Cammie



Then, giving us a few breaks, we welcomed up audience members to learn and play Soca Evelyn. The audience was a little anxious the first time we opened the floor to them, but by the end of the day, everyone was looking for an open pan to play. People flocked to every voice of the ensemble, even the engine room, and got to play along with the community group on this Kitchener tune. Us directors were able to take a bit of a step back as the community band members jumped right in on the teaching.  The audience and the Conservatory loved us so much they had us stay for an extra hour!

All in all, this was an excellent way to close our Illinois time for February (The rest of the month was Florida to Wisconsin!). The show was full of excitement, and although the community band members were pretty tired by the end of it, they all had a great time. We hope to see you at the next one, the Great Lakes Steelpan Festival on April 11th in Crystal Lake, where our group will be joined by other bands from the Midwest for a full day of steelpan!

AJH, Out

Anthony Jay Houston

Great December Wedding

Great December Wedding

Potts & Pans matches colors.

Potts & Pans matches colors.

On 12/20/14 Potts & Pans performed for the cocktail hour of a beautiful wedding in Niles, IL. Potts & Pans sent Anthony Jay Houston and myself to perform as an acoustic duo. Although we typically do duos with the backing track system, a tight set up time frame required that we not utilize the tracks. This wasn’t a problem though since Anthony and I had been practicing this style of performance during the week prior at our booth at the Midwest Clinic. (more about that another time)

Anyway, upon special request from the bride’s father, we learned a variety of reggae songs including some classic Shaggy tunes. Anthony and I have been thinking about adding some Shaggy into our lineup for some time, so this gentle nudge was appreciated. We are now happy to say that we know “Angel,” “It Wasn’t Me” and “In The Summertime” as an acoustic duet. Although it didn’t happen for this performance, we now have plans for adding vocals to these particular songs too!

Throughout the night, we received multiple compliments from the wait staff and guests, and the bride couldn’t have been happier! One guest came up and told us that he used to play at Clemente high school and hasn’t seen a pan in person for almost twenty years! It was great to bring those memories back to that gentleman, and hopefully we did something similar to others at the reception too.

Beautiful ballroom at the Chateau Ritz in Niles, IL

Beautiful ballroom at the Chateau Ritz in Niles, IL

The cocktail hour and reception all took place in a beautiful atmosphere at the Chateau Ritz. Not only was this a beautiful setting, but the staff was very friendly and a joy to work along side. The woman that seemed to be in charge was very friendly, and very helpful to us throughout the entire evening. While we were packing up, she offered us Avgolemono. We had no idea what this was, but figured we would try it, and I’m glad we did! This soup was great! She later explained that the cooks are Greek and that they are actually known for having some of the best avgolemono in Chicagoland!

All in all, the evening was great with lots of dancing, great food and happy people. I can’t think of a better way to start married life together than that!

Toys For Tots Concert

Toys For Tots Concert

This past Sunday we performed for our Annual Toys for Tots Benefit Concert. This show is one of my favorites every year. Not only do we play Holiday Tunes, but we are able to bring people from the community together to support a great cause. This year we brought in over 200 toys and $376 in donations for Toys for Tots – that’s more than our first two years combined! Having a chance to bring holiday spirit to those who attend, and joy to the kids who receive the presents is a wonderful feeling, and I left this show filled with joy.


First, we relocated this year to the First Congregational Church in Crystal Lake. This was not the first time Potts & Pans has had the opportunity to play here, and it is always a treat as the pans really sing in this space. Matt and I can be seen IMG_5896here again this coming weekend for their Family Christmas Concert (no pan on that one though). In addition to our long relationship with FCC, the most exciting reason for changing locations was that our community band grew so much we needed a larger performance area! I am absolutely thrilled with everything this community band has been doing. They did an awesome job at the Crystal Lake Festival of Lights Parade a few weeks back, and worked hard this semester to open and close our Toys for Tots concert! Not only are we growing in numbers, but the skill is getting higher. More and more students are comfortable on multiple steelpan voices, more know about the pan’s history, and people in the area are getting really excited over pan! I’m still shocked at how many flute and oboe players the group attracts, but since our professional group has so many talented flute players, I suppose I should just accept this as the thing :)

pptft flutesThe professional group filled in the middle portion of the concert. We had a quartet this time, and the groove on stage was tight. I often lose track of time when playing with these guys, it’s so comfortable on stage with the P&P folks that I could do it for hours and hours. That being said, the single hour of this concert was all the better since we had a fantastic audience to appreciate our tunes! One of my favorite parts of this group is the wide variety of music we bring to our shows. Bluypso (Blues + Calypso: term coined by P&P board!) is endlessly fun to play, and if I can read a crowd it is equally fun to listen to. Of course we don’t stray from the traditional Calypso’s and Soca’s of Trinidad & Tobago either. After all, the people and music of T&T is what allows us to do what we do! Respect! But the talent in our group goes beyond pan as well. I’ve already mentioned our flute players, and they gave 2 killer trio performances. Plus, Christina put together a beautiful arrangement of “What Child Is This” that included 3 flutes entering at different times, which blended with the pans perfectly. I also brought out the vibes for a few! I played “Wish Upon a Star” as a vibes solo, and am extremely grateful for the many compliments on my improvised arrangement I received. Is it a Disney tune? Sure. Does Disney own Star Wars? You bet. Does that have anything to do with why I picked that tune? …. perhaps. But playing by myself is only part of the game. Vibes+Pan=Magic. I played vibes with the band on two numbers, and continued to tft14realize how these two instruments produce such a fantastic sound together! pptft no me

For anyone who missed the show, stay tuned to our site, facebook, and twitter because we’ll get some recordings posted for all of you. If you want to make a donation to Toys for Tots you can contact them here. Be sure to get them in early so the toys can get out to kids before Christmas! Again – a HUGE thank you to everyone who was able to make it. Also, my fellow directors Matt & Christina – you’re the best – the work we do, and the opportunities I have because of it, is awesome! And of course, all the other performers from our professional and community groups – you guys ROCK!


Outdoor Wedding in October!

Outdoor Wedding in October!

Steelpan Wedding in Carol Stream ILWho would have thought that late October would allow for a beautiful outdoor wedding? Not me! However, last weekend I found myself enjoying nearly perfect weather while performing the ceremony and cocktail hour music for a wedding in Carol Stream, IL. The wedding was held at Klein Creek Golf Club, and I don’t think anybody could have predicted the great setting almost a year ago when we started working on this.

At that time, the bride said there was a chance that I would be outside and even though we worked through those details, I didn’t really think that plan would come to fruition. Upon arriving at Klein Creek, I was able to quickly unload and get set up. This allowed me plenty of time to do some sound checks with my new speaker (EV ZLX-12) and iPad setup. I happy to report that the new speaker is great and the iPad system is phenomenal! I am working with the developer of a program called Calypso Score and couldn’t be happier with it! On top of the name being a convenient coincidence, the program and programmer are great! The program has done just about everything I can think of wanting it to do and the few things that it doesn’t the programmer is working with me to implement! I have started using the iPads almost exclusively and can’t believe at how much simpler some gigs have become. Not having to carry around bulky binders filled with paper music, has allowed me to bring even more music to performances and has even opened the door to on the spot requests!

All in all, the wedding was great, the new equipment was great, and the weather was unbelievable! Thank you Dana and Tony for having me part of such a special day. It was my honor to play music for the bridal party and the bride during the ceremony (by the way, Wagner’s “Wedding March” aka “Here Comes the Bride” sounds incredible on steelpan!) and for all your guests during the cocktail hour.