Virginia International PANFest Returns to Oceanfront May 11-12

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The 16th annual Virginia International PANFest returns to Virginia Beach May 11-12, featuring over 20 high school, college, and community steelpan drum bands from throughout the United States. After workshops on Friday, May 11 led by nationally-known steelpan artists and educators, the bands compete on Saturday, May 12 for the coveted Grand Champion Award. Saturday evening, headliners Jeff Narell and his band Five Ten perform on the main stage surrounded by ocean breezes and great international food!

Virginia International PAN Fest is free and open to the public. Virginia International PAN Fest is produced by Virginia Arts Festival and Beach Events. Visit www.vafest.org/panfest to register as a participant or for more information. 

In the early 1960s, steelpan, also known as steel drum or pan, was little known outside Trinidad, the island-nation of its origin. Rupert Sterling, a Caribbean exchange student, began teaching pan to teenage street gangs in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, under the direction of Murray Narell. The music was raw and dynamic, and soon the teens were channeling their energy into a cooperative musical experience instead of street violence. The enthusiasm was contagious; even Murray’s adolescent son Jeff Narell began playing along. Jeff relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, being the first to bring steelpan to West Coast audiences.

Jeff Narell, now an internationally known pannist and New York City resident cooks up a Caribbean stew of dance grooves as the headliner at this year’s PANFest. His band Five Ten celebrates their San Francisco Bay home- area code 510 –through west coast jazz, blues, funk, pop and Latin. Narell has been teaching, performing, composing, and arranging pan since those early days with Sterling and continues to forge his musical vision. “Pan is the newest family of acoustic music instruments on planet earth invented and developed in the 1940s by West Indian youth on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.” He adds, “Pan is a bright light in our world – a new sound and energy and new medium to connect us and harmonize us.” Narell has been praised by The San Francisco Chronicle for being “In the forefront of the cross-breed music movement, blending jazz, pop, calypso, and reggae.”

Virginia International PANFest

Friday, May 11, 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM, 24th Street Stage, Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Nature’s Child, Jeff Narell & Five Ten 8:00 PM

Saturday, May 12, 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM

24th Street Stage, Virginia Beach Oceanfront, Jeff Narell & Five Ten 8:30 PM

The Virginia International PANFest has been recognized as one of the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events, and holds membership in the Student Youth Tour Association (SYTA).  PANFest is directly aligned with the Virginia Arts Festival’s mission of impacting the lives of students through outstanding educational programs throughout Hampton Roads, including the Rhythm Project, while making a tangible difference through regional partnerships and cultural tourism. 

About the Rhythm Project
For over two decades, the Rhythm Project has served as the primary community engagement program of the Virginia Arts Festival. The Rhythm Project is a world percussion ensemble dedicated to the nurturing of self-esteem through individual and cooperative achievement. Rhythm Project leadership works with four area elementary school groups and three middle schools in programs that are open to all students. The Rhythm Project’s premiere performing ensemble, the Rhythm Project All-Stars, is a year-round program for high school students that focuses on rigorous rehearsal, performance and touring opportunities. Additionally, two high school groups complete the family of ten Rhythm Project ensembles that serve the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth. The All-Stars have earned international acclaim and collaborated with many prominent artists; they have opened for Gladys Knight, shared the stage with pan artist Victor Provost and the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, and performed at the Royal Nova Scotia and Virginia International Tattoos. In May 2014, the group was featured on NPR’s “From the Top” program showcasing outstanding talent in high school students.

About the Virginia Arts Festival

Since 1997, the Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the cultural scene in southeastern Virginia, presenting great performers from around the world to local audiences and making this historic, recreation-rich region a cultural destination for visitors from across the United States and around the world. The Festival has presented numerous U.S. and regional premieres, and regularly commissions new works of music, dance, and theater from some of today’s most influential composers, choreographers, and playwrights. The Festival’s arts education programs reach tens of thousands of area schoolchildren each year through student matinees, in-school performances, artists’ residencies, master classes and demonstrations.