Graded Pan Exams

Graded Examinations in Solo Steelpan Performances

Graded Examinations in Solo Steelpan Performance were developed in 1994 as a collaborative effort among four lecturers at the then Creative Arts Centre, UWI, St. Augustine.  The first examinations were held in April 1995, and they fill a gap in the existing British system of graded instrumental examinations that have been available in Trinidad and Tobago for all instruments, except pan, for more than 85 years.


The syllabus is now in its sixth edition (2009-2011) and in addition to assessment from Preliminary (pre Grade 1) to Grade 8 on the tenor pan, double tenor and double second pans, we have added, as a pilot,  examinations for four-pan (cello or guitar) in grades three and five. Originally designed for candidates in Trinidad and Tobago, pan examinations have also been held in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and for the last five years, also outside the region in Maryland, USA.  In January 2009, pan examinations were held for the first time in Barbados.

The four objectives are:

  1. to encourage pannists to become musically literate.  Because of the instrument’s history and tradition, students learning to play the pan have not traditionally been given the opportunity to acquire this skill. 
  2. is to widen the scope of instruction in pan playing to include music reading in addition to rote learning.  We have accomplished this by the requirements of
    • playing set pieces which have been notated,
    • answering questions on those pieces and
    • reading music at sight.  
  3. to encourage composers to write for solo pan so that the repertoire of original pan compositions can be enlarged.  This is already being realized in the 2009-2011 edition of the syllabus where almost 50% of the set pieces chosen by the syllabus committee have been composed (in contrast to being adapted) for the instrument. 
  4. to provide pan students with an opportunity to be systematically assessed in a non-competitive setting and as individuals, a consideration when one considers that playing the pan has traditionally been a group activity