Khan’s Teachings

The arts, culture, community – the issues, events, personalities surrounding these, I have learned, practiced and happen to believe have news value. The media gatekeepers don’t always agree; but that’s what blogs are for.

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

Musicians will shortly be able to register for training sessions organized by multi-panorama-winning arranger Khan Cordice. That’s only one of his summer projects during his break from studies toward his Masters in Music in the U.S.

“For this summer, apart from working with Hell’s Gate again, I’m hoping to hold two workshops,” Khan said. The first workshop will run from June 30th to July 4th. “This workshop is about harmony and improvisation,” he said. “It’s not just for pannists, (and) really not for beginners, though if beginners want to come, there’s something they can take away.” Ideally though, he’s targeting more experienced musicians and music students: “people who are about to write CXC and CXC students right up to the most advanced persons.” Cordice noted that the two hour sessions will not be merely theoretical but also practical. “It’s going to be intense but nothing that people can’t manage,” he said.

Cordice expounded a bit on the subject of improvisation saying, “it’s not spontaneous…I’m going to break down a lot of the myths…what’s spontaneous about improvisation is how well (you) put together all that (you’ve) practiced.  It’s impossible for me to say a word I’ve never known.  Music is a language; it has a vocabulary.” By the end of the workshop, he said, he expects people to have greater knowledge of the language and techniques, from chord substitutions to tension in harmony.

He also noted that he will be using four mallet techniques.

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Another workshop will be held in late summer. The focus will be composing and arranging. This is right in Cordice’s wheelhouse as, though very young, he’s already claimed four panorama wins – 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 – as arranger with the oldest and winningest pan orchestra on the island, Hell’s Gate. He had an instinct for it as demonstrated by the fact that he won Moods of Pan on his first attempt, 2008, with the National Youth Pan Orchestra. Since then he’s won scholarships that have taken him to further studies first in the Caribbean and now in the U.S. More than instinct and technique though, he chalks up successful arranging to love: “it’s the same key for cooking, it’s the same key for writing,” he said, “love, passion. It’s possible to do a good arrangement and you have no connection, there’s no love, no passion, it’s text book arranging.” To win, though, he said, you have to mix the right ingredients with love. He underscores, as well, that winning is not necessarily the goal, or not the only goal, but to show yourself and the world what you are truly capable of. He takes great pride in the fact that at 69 Hell’s Gate is doing just that.

It’s worth noting that apart from being a proven pannist and composer, Cordice, who is just a semester shy of completing his Masters, also has a keen interest in music research and will, time allowing, do some of that this summer as well. He fears a lot has been lost through this lack of research and documentation, and recalled how trying it was to unearth information needed for his thesis on the history of steelband in Antigua, 1945 to present. “If we do leave it as it is, it’s going to be lost,” he said of the history. He hinted at a possible book project. This will not pull him away from what he loves most however, playing, composing, and passing it on. During his studies he’s taken up opportunities to travel and play and run workshops in other parts of the US and though he hopes to return home and teach, he plans to continue embracing all opportunities that come his way. “People want pan music, people want Antiguan music,” Cordice said.

He’s hoping, meanwhile, that Antiguans, too, want to learn more about their music. For the workshops, Cordice is hoping to attract at least 20, at most 30 participants. To register, or for more information, contact him at or 725-6925; he said registration forms should be available by the end of the week.

As with all content (words, images, other) on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.


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