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Published on January 28th, 2017 | by Robbie Joseph0
Jenny Gilberg – Musician, Arranger and Composer
Jenny who is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK is a classically trained musician and an established steel pan tutor, performer, composer and arranger. She has performed in many prestigious national and international events and competitions as a soloist and with various bands. She works full time as a self-employed tutor in Northumberland and North Tyneside, teaching 20 steel pan groups as well as flute, clarinet and saxophone, and is employed by The King Edward VI School, Morpeth, (KEVI) as a Steel Pan Tutor. She is joint Musical Director of North Tyneside Steelband (NTSB), Musical Director of Northern Steel Orchestra (NSO), one half of Monsoon Steel Ensemble and also a solo performer. In 2012 she launched her first solo album.
Her interest in music started at an early age playing recorders and flute whilst at primary school. By the age of twelve she discovered and fell in love with the steel pan after hearing North Tyneside Steel band (NTSB) perform. Jenny was welcomed into the band and since then has shared many, many amazing performances and experiences with her fellow players and friends including twice performing at the Royal Albert Hall in the Music For Youth Proms (2003, 2008), BBC Young Folk Awards, the Wickerman Festival, tours to Switzerland and a UK tour from Lands End to Largs, Scotland. In 2002, she began her career as a pan tutor, training as a Young Leader with the Steelbands North project, managed at the time by NTSB and now an independent charity known as Northern Steel Network (NSN).
Whilst studying music at school her interest in composing and arranging developed. Jenny’s first composition, Jenesis, was written whilst studying GCSE Music and was later recorded by NTSB. Whilst studying A level Music she composed, Yangtze, as a string quartet, later arranging it as a solo for steelpan and then developing it as a soundscape (pan and flute) for a public art exhibition, ‘Unfinished Business’, exhibited at Wallington Hall, Northumberland, from August to October 2011. She continued to compose and arrange regularly for her steel bands, NTSB, King Edward VI Steel Band (KEVI) and Northern Steel Orchestra (NSO) and individual pupils entering competitions and taking exams. Arranging is something Jenny really enjoys and looks forward to developing further. Recently she recorded tracks for Five Pence Game, a collaborative recording project based in Newcastle.
After leaving school Jenny went on to study a BA Fine Art degree at Northumbria University, graduating in 2009 with 1st Class Honours. During this time she continued to teach pan in various schools.
Jenny has always had a multidisciplinary approach to the arts; she loves both music and art and really enjoys fusing different media. Her involvement in the ‘Unfinished Business’ exhibition whilst on her fine art graduate fellowship featured her soundscape, ‘Yangtze’, and also a number of her paintings
In 2012, Jenny held a solo art exhibition titled, ‘Laventille’, which featured a series of photographs and paintings based on her time playing with Courts Sound Specialists Steel Orchestra on her first trip to Trinidad in 2010.
Steel Pan has provided Jenny with many memorable experiences and allowed her to meet some hugely talented musicians. One of the most amazing projects she has been part of to date was in 2013, with the Balkan Organ Project with the London Gypsy Orchestra. A friend sent her the link to a job advert, which read, “solo steel pannist wanted, must have an interest in world music, be able to read music and be comfortable sight reading”. She applied and a train ride to London and one audition later the job was hers. Musician, Gundula Gruen, had been commissioned to write an original piece for church organ, steelpan and Balkan Orchestra to celebrate the restoration of the organ at St John’s Church, Notting Hill. Jenny travelled to London on a monthly basis to rehearse with the orchestra and had a wonderful time, she learnt so much, made great friends and performed some amazing original music and traditional Balkan pieces. This unlikely mix of instruments worked perfectly and really gave the steelpan a new platform and captured the wider audience.
Her musical development continued in 2013 when she attended an advanced jazz course at Guildhall School of Music. This was a great learning experience and challenge for her and it was also the first time steelpan had been part of the course, which was led by Malcolm Edmonston, Carlos Lopez-Real and Malcolm Miles. Jenny fondly remembers that she never had to think so quickly on her feet before! They warmly embraced the steelpan.
Jenny strongly believes competition leads to development, innovation and raises standards. In 2008, she travelled to Croydon and took part in the 2008 British Association of Steel Bands Pan Explosion Soloist competition and won. This episode in her musical career gave her the drive, ambition and confidence to enter other competitions such as Pan Clash, in which she was successful as runner-up in 2011 and champion in 2013. These competitions taught her to always challenge, learn resilience and not to be afraid to compete against other musicians
Like many steelpan musicians, the highlight of the year for Jenny is the National Steel Band Panorama competitions, both in the UK and Trinidad. It’s a time to exhort her playing skills and stamina to the limit amongst the crème de la crème of players. ‘It is also great fun’, she exclaimed. Jenny has enjoyed playing in many Panorama competitions with inspiring arrangers and very talented players. She stated, ‘I would encourage all enthusiastic players to play in a Panorama competition when they can.’ ‘I’m very much looking forward to playing again with BP Renegades in 2017’. Jenny has performed at the following National Steelband Panorama competitions to date are:
- BP Renegades 2012-present,
- Ebony Steelband 2014-present,
- Courts Sound Specialists 2010
- CSI Steelband 2008, 2009 & 2011
- Stardust Steel Orchestra 2006 & 2007.
Jenny has also competed in the National Single Pan category in Trinidad with Polyphonics and Trinidad East Side Symphony.
As a pan tutor and someone who has benefited so much from the experience of playing in National Steelband Panorama competitions she thought it was important to provide a progression route for advanced players in the North East region of the UK to enhance their playing skills and to network within the region and beyond. With the support of Steelbands North, Jenny set up Northern Steel Orchestra (NSO) in March 2015. Panists from across the region were invited to audition and they now have over forty members. None of their players had ever attended or played at a Steelband Panorama before. They rehearse from April to August each year and perform at a small number of events across the region and at a local steelband festival. The orchestra has enjoyed guest tutor workshops with Leroy Clarke and Marlon Hibbert and the support and tuning skills from Toussaint Clarke of the UK Pan Tuners Guild.
On Monday 10th August 2015, Northern Steel Orchestra made history by winning the UK National Junior Panorama competition with a Jenny Gilberg’s musically arranged rendition of ‘Ducking’ by Fadda Fox. It was a fantastic experience for all the NSO players to perform in this competition alongside other excellent UK bands and afforded a great opportunity for Jenny to arrange her first Panorama piece. This was one of her proudest moments. NSO players are a real team; they support and respect each other and are on an exciting journey together. Jenny spoke very highly of being very proud of them.
Jenny stated, ‘music has shaped my life and taken me to some remarkable places where I’ve met inspiring, talented people and made many friends and had great fun.’ ‘Some memorable highlights for me include rolling the racks across the Savannah at 4am playing Duvone Stewart’s Pan in De Minor with BP Renegades, my first ever Panorama with Stardust Steel Orchestra playing Brent Holder’s arrangement of ‘This one’s for you Bradley’, singing in ice caves in Austria whilst on tour with KEVI Steel, headlining the Cudrefin Steelband Festival in Switzerland with North Tyneside Steelband, winning UK Junior Panorama 2015 with Northern Steel Orchestra and winning Pan Explosion and Pan Clash’.
Jenny said, ‘I would advise any young players to take on challenges and opportunities that come their way and to enjoy the beautiful instrument that is the steelpan’.
Panpodium has noted Jenny’s musical development over the years and hopes that she continues to develop and spread the pan gospel and the Trinidad and Tobago culture far and wide on her musical journey.