The Kennedy Center

Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra



Biography

The Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra (PVYSO) has been sharing its melodies nationally and internationally since 1996. The orchestra was started in the suburban basement of founder Lorna Green with 14 students and steelpans. At the end of two weeks, the group had completed the “Star Spangled Banner” and performed the piece for the Olympic torch ceremony passing through Largo, Maryland. Within a year the group relocated to Hyattsville, Maryland and the rest is history.

This group of energetic young performers has toured nationally and internationally, performing in Dakar, Senegal; Ontario, Canada; Chicago, Illinois; and New Haven, Connecticut. Notable venues include the Kennedy Center, the Zora Neale Hurston Festival, the Virginia Beach Panorama Festival (grand champions 2006 and 2007), and countless other public and private performances. The young entertainers have performed with world renowned musicians including steelpan virtuosos Liam Teague, Robert Greenidge, Andy Narell, saxophonist Arturo Tappin, and Grammy nominated trumpeter Etienne Charles. The orchestra is comprised of 25-30 students ranging in age from eight to18, who attend the Saturday Academy hosted by the Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFE). At the academy, students study music theory and practical steelpan pieces, as well as learn a wide variety of music arranged by the academy’s highly credentialed instructors.

Over the years, PVYSO has had over 500 students grace its instruments. Arguably one of the best steel orchestra’s in the Mid-Atlantic region, they also proudly state that their parent organization, CAFE, is “one of the best charities of the Greater Washington region,” according to Catalogue for Philanthropy 2007-2008.

About CAFE:

The Cultural Academy for Excellence, a 15 year-old award-winning music-based academic and life-skills enrichment program, was started in 1996 as an enticement for youth to stay in school, stay out of trouble, and perform well academically. Research revealed the history of Caribbean cultures successfully implementing early intervention for at-risk teens by blending the therapeutic aspect of percussion and the aesthetic lure of the melodic steelpan. CAFE’s founder and staff applied this proven theory of intervention to the program design.

Over the years, CAFE has provided more than 500 youths and 100 adults with culturally-based enrichment activities facilitated by professional musicians and teachers. On Saturdays, CAFE offers academic tutoring and music classes, using the steelpan (of ‘pan’) as the primary instrument, as well as visual arts and chess. The curriculum incorporates the Maryland State Department of Education’s standards for music instruction as set forth in Essential Learner Outcomes for Fine Arts. It offers pan lessons during weeknights to adults and youth and also holds a three-week Summer Music Camp. In addition to academic and music classes, CAFE sponsors one of the only after-school mock trial teams in Prince Georges County, and offers opportunities for debate competitions and MathCounts competitions.

CAFE serves predominantly African American students representing a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. The age of students ranges from seven to 18, and they hail from as far away as Baltimore County and Northern Virginia. Through CAFE’s activities, these youth realize their creative potential, turning their success into social achievement.

Watch Past Performances

Video 8/3/2017: Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra and Queen’s Royal College Steelpan Ensemble

The sounds of the steelpan come from the award-winning Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra, directed by Josanne Francis, as well as the Queen’s Royal College Steelpan Ensemble of Trinidad and Tobago, directed by Maureen Clement. Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra is part of the Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFE), a non-profit art in education program based in Mount Rainier, Maryland.

Video 12/14/2011: Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra

Students from Maryland’s Cultural Academy for Excellence play a holiday program.

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