The Orlando Power Stars Steel orchestra will be the featured cultural performers at the 2006 Caribbean American Business Expo and Conference, June 1-3, 2006 in Orlando, Florida. This steel band, which comprises mainly children from the Central Florida area, has over the past 14 years served as the training ground for hundreds of youths who have demonstrated interest in playing the steel pan.
“The steel pan, the only musical instrument to be invented in the 20th century, has its origins in Trinidad and Tobago, where just after the second World War, Winston ‘Spree’ Simon, a Trinidadian tuned an oil drum into what is now a tenor pan with his first tune being Mary Had A Little Lamb, ” explained Selwyn Mahabir, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Central Florida which spearheads the steel orchestra’s sponsorship program.
The orchestra is an attraction for both tourists and residents in Central Florida who are often pleasantly surprised at the sight of kids, as little as six years old, making music from discarded oil drums.
The orchestra will perform at the official opening ceremony of the business expo on Thursday June 1 which will be attended by over 500 government, business and civic leaders from around the United States and across the Caribbean region. Among those invited are Florida Governor Jeb Bush, senators and house representatives from the State of Florida, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty and Mayor of the City of Orlando Buddy Dyer.
Among the visitors from the Caribbean region will be Guyana’s President, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo who will give the keynote address at the opening ceremony, the Honorable Kerri Symmonds, Barbados’ Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives from the private sector in the region.
The steel orchestra will also entertain the 5,000 members of the public expected to visit the expo on Friday and Saturday.
Mahabir said the orchestra “is happy to have been selected as the cultural entertainers for the expo since this will give the kids great exposure. They’re all excited about performing and we thank the Caribbean Sun newspaper for this opportunity especially since it marks the launching of Caribbean American Heritage Month.”
The orchestra is 23 persons strong including some elders who over the years have devoted significant time and effort to training the kids free of cost.
“Ours is a labor of love and we feel a sense of gratitude when we are offered opportunities to perform on occasions like this,” Mahabir said as he paid tribute to the band’s founder, Leo James who is still today the band’s leader.