Matt Potts

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!


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!

Wedding at Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville, IN

Wedding at Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville, IN

Recently, I had the privilege of performing at a wedding “pre-ception” in Merrillville, Indiana. The event was for a couple that was going to get married in Punta Cana but wanted to have a reception for friends and family before they went down. It was a great event and was held at a great location. The Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville, IN was a great setting for an event like this.

Not only was the inside well decorated and sophisticated, but there was a beautiful enclosed courtyard in between the event hall and the restaurant. The day I was there, it was a little chili so people did not spend much time out in the courtyard, but I can see this being an excellent option for anybody thinking about planning an event where they would like to have two distinct areas that are connected yet still allow for separation.

This courtyard also played into how loud the music could be played during the reception. Even though there was a restaurant on the other side of the building, with the amount of space in between, I was quite impressed at the minimal sound leakage. I think DJ K Ceaser could attest to this too. Although he was not able to max out his system, he was still able to pump out a lot of sound without disturbing the restaurant side. I have not had the opportunity to work side by side with many DJs (usually we are in separate areas) but DJ K Ceaser did a great job with handling introductions and was great to work with. The two of us worked together to make sure there was always music going and that we fit in special tunes and announcements. He was great to work with and I wouldn’t mind doing more work along side him in the future. Along with having a DJ and steelpan there, the happy couple also had some a couple samba dancers from Planeta Azul. The two dancers were great and even taught the guests how to samba! You can check out their Facebook page here.

Another great person involved in this wedding was Chantal from Chantal’s Wedding Planners. Starting a few days before the event, Chantal contacted me about the details of the day. Upon arrival everything went quite smoothly and her personality made it seem like we had worked together for years.

To summarize:

Gamba Ristorante was beautiful and very friendly

DJ K Ceaser was killer and great to work with

Planeta Azul was super entertaining and even taught guests how to samba

Chantal was very personable and a joy to work with