Pan Player, Arranger, Composer
Back to Ref: Ken Professor Philmore: Pan Player, Arranger, Composer

Ken “Professor” Philmore is one of the most talented pannists who has come from the South of Trinidad.

Ken is the third of five children and got his early introduction into pan through his cousins Ferdi and Barry Brathwaite. He first played with Hatters.

Later, Ken moved to Kalomo Kings in 1977 and then to Gay Hoytonians before he finally settled with Fonclaire Steel Orchestra in 1981.

Ken Philmore did his first album in 1985 with Pan Assembly and assisted Fonclaire in no small way in reaching a joint 6th place with his arrangement of Pan in A Minor.

This association with Fonclaire enabled the band to be joint winners in 1988 with Deltones and to win the South Zone of Panorama for the next four years.

It is interesting to note that following in the footsteps of Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ken also began composing tunes for Panorama. For instance; Pan By Storm (1990), Pan Ecstasy (1991) and Pan in the Party (1992).

During the years 1989, 1990 and 1991, his arrangements placed second each year in Panorama with the band Fonclaire.

Ken has not only concentrated his talents in Trinidad and Tobago, but overseas as well. In 1988, he appeared with Tina Turner and Lionel Hampton in New York. Also in this year [1996], he was honoured by Pan Trinbago as one of the most promising arrangers.

He appeared as a special guest with Mercer Ellington, son of “Duke” Ellington and was featured on the title cut of Ellington’s album Queenie Pie Reggae. He has also appeared in concert with the world renowned Latin American musician Tito Puente.

Ken “Professor” Philmore has done this country and South Trinidad proud and is a pannist of tremendous skill and talent.

A pannist of today and tomorrow.

© 1997 Gideon Maxime: Pg 212; PAN THROUGH THE YEARS (1952 - 1996)

Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore
[From Ken’s travelling Profile/Biography 1997 - Abridged by tojo - January 2000]

  Ken Philmore is from the Caribbean island of Trinidad, the larger industrial unit of the dual island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, birth place of the musical instruments, the steel-drums or locally termed the steelpan. ‘Professor’ is one of the top steel-drum soloists in the world.

  His fascination with the steelpan began when he was only four years old. In 1974, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Hatters Steel Orchestra in San Fernando, with the intention of developing his skills as a player and arranger.

  It is a strong cultural tendency in Trinidad to convey, almost playfully, a sobriquet or alias to a person that characterises some demonstrated trait or impairment, and thus giving all an immediate handle by which to identify or address the recipient. The following story from Ken’s own biography, is only half the reason Ken was named ‘Professor’.

On one of his early visits, a member jokingly remarked “Who is this young kid with these old fashioned glasses?” referring to his bone-rimmed spectacles, “He looks more like a ‘Professor’ than a pan player.”

  The other part of the story traces Ken’s first year with Hatters; when he was selected to tour with the band to Minneapolis, USA.

It was during this tour recalls ‘Bigger’, a founder member of the band, that "Ken used to talk so much, about all kinds of things, that we got fed up (with the chatter) at times. It was from that, that we started calling him ‘Pro’.

[‘Pro’ is the Trinidadian short-form for ‘Professor’ and not ‘Prof’ as many believe; which is the short-form used by those more fortunately educated.]

  This is an alias which Ken proudly carries today, and which aptly suits this gifted musician. In 1975 Ken began experimenting with arrangements of tunes for Hatters.

  Ken’s first opportunity as an Arranger occurred in 1981 when he arranged for BWIA Sonatas in New York. He consequently won 6 Panoramas in New York with the same band.

  As time progressed, his talents as player and arranger so impressed, that by 1982 he became musical director of one of the nation's other prestigious steel orchestras, Fernandes Vat 19 Fonclaire. In twelve years, he has led them to eight National championships.

  In 1985, ‘Professor’ did his first album - Our Heritage - which features a mixture of his version of jazz classics like Mr Magic and Stardust; together with pan instrumentals of some popular calypsoes. He was requested to play for Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Trinidad and Tobago that same year.

Since 1987, Ken has produced eight albums
[There may be more by this time - 2000]

  • Pan Calypso (1987)
  • Love in Steel (1988)
  • Pan Jamboree (1989)
  • Pan By Storm (1990)
  • Pan Ecstasy (1991)
  • Pan in the Party (1992)
  • All Night (1993)
  • Graduation (1997)
  • [1997 - 2000 ?? Gap to be filled.]

  His performing schedule constantly takes him back and forth between the USA and Trinidad. ‘Professor’ has performed and recorded with a number of international artistes such as Tito Puente, Ella Fitzgerald, Phyllis Hyman, Nancy Wilson, Tina Turner, Andy Narell, Ralph MacDonald, George Howard and jazz great Lionel Hampton.

  1989 was a memorable year for Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore. He was honoured by the ruling steelpan association, Pan Trinbago, as the most outstanding musical arranger. In New York he received a special award for his contribution to music by Mayor Koch. Following his successes in Los Angeles and numerous standing ovations at Madison Square Garden in New York, ‘Professor’ was invited by Mercer Ellington to join the prestigious Duke Ellington Orchestra for their tours to Europe and North America. He toured with the band during the period 1989 - 1991. On their 1990 album - Music is My Mistress - Ken was the featured soloist on the selection Queenie Pie Reggae.

  Outstanding live performances continue unabated - 1991, 1993 Washington DC Pan Jazz Festival; 1992, 1993 St Croix Jazz Festival; 1993 Atlanta Jazz Festival; 1997 Barbados Jazz Festival among others.

  Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore has also performed at places such as Carnegie Hall in New York, The Royal Albert Hall in London and the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. He has also performed alongside great entertainers such as our local Lord Kitchener, and with international lights of the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Maria Carey, Freddie Jackson, George Benson, Bob James and George Howard at Jazz Festivals world-wide. He has recently [1997] performed at Jazz Central on the BET TV channel Washington, DC.

[1997 - 1999 ?? Gap to be filled.]

1999 - March - Naparima Bowl in Trinidad as a guest at the show  DIFFER-ENT Ângle. And again in December, as a guest artiste at Pan Trinbago’s 50 YEÅRS OF PÅN Awards ceremony; where he was also honoured with the Allan Gervais South-Central Regional Award for outstanding Arrangers.

  As of the Carnival 2000 season, ‘Pro’ has moved over to join legendary BWEE Invaders, to assist in their quest to as yet win a National Panorama.

[BWEE == short-form == BWIA]

  The ‘Professor’ is now a musical giant in his homeland, the US and Europe. Young pannists and arrangers try to imitate his style. His impact on the pan arena has been nothing short of phenomenal; and there are audiences yet to be exposed to his unique combination of dexterity and soothing runs on his ‘steel piano’, as he calls it. The genius continues to blossom.

  ‘Professor’ Ken Philmore presently resides both in Washington DC and here in Trinidad. He is committed to the development of the art both locally and internationally.

    Performance venues:

  • Blues Alley, Washington, DC
  • Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
  • Waldorf Astoria, New York, NY
  • United Nations, New York, NY
  • The Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA
  • Apollo Theatre, New York, NY
  • Schubert Theatre, New York, NY
  • City Auditorium, Danville, VA
  • Powell Arts Centre, Richmond, VA
  • The Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England
  • The Royal Festival Hall, London, England
  • St David's Hall, Cardiff, Wales
  • Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Scotland

  • The Kennedy Centre, Washington, DC
  • Yale University
  • Harvard University
  • New York Tech Community College
  • University of West Virginia
  • Howard University
  • Michigan University
  • University of the West Indies, Trinidad Campus

  © 1997 Ken Philmore

© 1997: - 19971227 - 1m20071228 - 2m20140615
Historic Update: 04 January 2000; Last Update: 19 July 2014 03:30:00 TT
Processed by: Jeremy G de Barry
Back to Ref: Ken Professor Philmore: Pan Player, Arranger, Composer

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The Steelbands (Pan) of Trinidad & Tobago

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