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Pan Nation steel drum ensemble’s in-depth exploration of traditional and modern steel drum repertoire represents a fresh, contemporary approach to the steel drum band. Its members are actively involved in the group’s repertoire as composers and soloists. The result is a unique approach to the steel drum ensemble that combines the traditional sounds of the Caribbean steel drum band with jazz, pop, classical and other world rhythms. Pan Nation’s diverse steel drum repertoire has been well received at concert performances throughout the Western United States as well as master classes, outreach and innovative community programs. The group’s debut EP recording entitled Altered Perception is available on the Ramajay Records label.

Ensemble members: Tom Miller, Director, Michelle Brake, Andrew Neldon, Don Prorak

 

Tom Miller (dbl. second steel pan)

Tom Miller’s vast experience as a performing percussionist, steel drummer, composer, arranger and educator has made him one of the most respected and sought after soloists and clinicians today.  Tom has performed worldwide with his own popular group Pan Ramajay, with other notable pan artists, Andy Narell, Ray Holman, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, and Othello Molineaux.  Tom was also a featured guest performer at Trinidad and Tobago’s annual “Pan and Jazz Festival”, in 2005 and 2010.  Other collaborations have produced work with Calypso vocal artist, David Rudder; jazz drummer, Peter Erskine; composer, Vince Mendoza; bassist Michael Manring; woodwind virtuoso, Paul McCandless; Germany’s famed WDR Big Band and as a member of the Windham Hill recording group, Montreux. He has added his unique style of percussive touch to numerous recordings covering a variety of musical styles with artists such as Grammy award winners, Allison Krause and the late John Denver, and Venezuelan songstress, Maria Marquez.  Tom’s playing has also been featured on film scores for the movies, Commando,  Nina Takes a Lover, and The Mystic Masseur, as well as ads for Minute Maid, Sony, the SIMs computer games and many others.

Tom is equally as comfortable in the studio as a producer having produced and mixed several critically acclaimed steel band recordings for his own group, Pan Ramajay, as well as master pannist, Ray Holman, The Chabot Panhandlers Steel Orchestra, the Miami University Steel Band and the Lamont Steel Drum Ensemble.  He is the founder of the chamber steel drum ensemble, Pan Nation, a steel drum octet performing original compositions composed by the group’s members and featured on their debut EP recording, “Altered Perception.”

Tom’s composing talents have earned him grants from the prestigious Meet the Composer Foundation on five occasions, fostering the creation, performance and education of audiences through his compositions featuring steel drums and percussion.  This dedication to musical education has won Tom many invitations as an artist in residence at numerous universities and colleges throughout the U.S.  He currently is the director of Steel Drum Ensembles at the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music as well as the founder and director of the Pan Ramajay Summer Steel Drum Festival, in Denver, occurring annually in July.  He has also served on the faculty of the JAZZ School in Berkeley, CA, the Mannette Steel Drum Workshop in Morgantown, WV,  the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, the Lamont Summer Academy, and the University of Delaware Summer Steel Drum Workshop.

Tom is the founder and president of one of the foremost steel drum music publishing companies, Pan Ramajay Productions (www.ramajay.com), which features Tom’s own compositions and recordings as well as those of other prominent steel drum composers worldwide.

Michelle Brake (cello steel pan)

Michelle is a Colorado native and original member of Pan Nation.  Her love for pan brings a spirit of fun and energy that spills into her performance. Along with playing the Cello/Guitar drums, she has composed and recorded her first steel drum tune, “Cora’zon.”

Michelle is also very much in demand as a piano accompanist performing with the Colorado Women’s and Men’s Chorale, “Rhythm and Grace,” a  dance class for Parkinson’s, Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church, and as Musical Theatre Music Director for Denver Christian High School. Michelle is an AmSAT certified teacher of the Alexander Technique with her own studio, www.thinktomove.com, and is an Adjunct Faculty member at the Lamont School of Music.

Andrew Neldon (double tenor steel pan)

Andrew Neldon’s diverse experience performing in traditional and multicultural ensembles, and strong foundation in educational practices have helped him become a well-respected percussionist and music educator. His knowledge and skill with steel pans are prominent features of his musical background and career. Andrew’s passion for the Trinidad-born instrument has afforded him opportunities to perform internationally with world-renowned artists.

Andrew’s performances with orchestral, pop, jazz, funk, and other music genres have provided him with the knowledge and expertise to teach music students of diverse ages and backgrounds. His mentors in music include Brian Wolfe, Kevin Sullivan, George Willis, Al Wrublesky, and Tom Miller, among others. These musicians have shaped the way Andrew approaches the pedagogy of music and percussion instruments. His students are motivated to excel musically by virtue of his instruction, encouragement, and passion for the art form.

Andrew is a West Virginia native, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado where he pursues his passion for music, steel pan, and the outdoors. He regularly performs with Pan Nation, Pan Jumbies, The Pan Association, Last Nerve and other local artists. His demand for private instruction is continuously growing, and he serves on the Board of Directors of the Steel Pan Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated the performance, education, and growth of the steel pan community.

Don Prorak (double second steel pan)

Don Prorak began playing pan around 1987, after years of performing as a percussionist, vibist, and drummer.  A few years later he met Ray Holman, who invited him to come to Trinidad and perform in Panorama ’91 with Carib Tokyo. After that trip Don formed Pan Jumbies and decided to focus on pan as his primary instrument. Pan Jumbies has now been making music for over two decades, and has performed in concerts and festivals, as well as a wide variety of corporate and private events. The band has also appeared as guest artist with the Denver Brass, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Colorado Wind Ensemble, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Pops Orchestra, 1st Universalist Church Choir, Denver Turnverein Chorus, and others, featuring Don’s arrangements and compositions. Don also performs in the duo “Toco Bay” with marimbist Jim Theobald.

In Trinidad, Don has performed with Carib Tokyo, Humming Birds Pan Groove, Phase II Pan Groove, and TCL Skiffle Bunch in Panorama and the Steelband Music Festival. He started a high school steel band program at Brighton Heritage Academy, a public alternative school in Brighton, Colorado, and 2 months later founded the Colorado State University Steelband. Recently he began a steel band for teachers and staff, called Steel.Drum.27J. He holds degrees in music education and percussion performance from the University of Illinois and DePaul University.