Steel pannist wins Young Musician award

Sixteen-year-old Ethan Whittaker has been honored as Butterfield Young Musician of the Year 2014 for his performance on steel pan. 

At the Young Musician of the Year competition at the Harquail Theatre last week, 13 finalists ages 15 to 18 performed for judges. The finalists were chosen from a series of auditions over three weeks at schools across the island that drew 150 participants. 

“I’m thrilled,” Ethan said after the show. “Steel pan has been a major influence in my life.” 

Ethan, representing Cayman School for Pan and Cayman Prep and High School, first became interested in the steel pan at age 11. He said his interest in the instrument represents his mother’s Trinidadian heritage.  

“I’m just happy to finally give [the steel pan] recognition. It’s been with me for years; it’s just something I think will carry on with my life,” said Ethan.  

He also said that any youngsters interested in learning how to play on the steel pan should “leap into it” and “just enjoy it.”  

Ethan’s selections for the judges were “Minute Waltz” by Frederic Chopin and “Voices of Spring” waltz by Johann Strauss II. 

Chaquira Hodgson, 18, also from the Cayman School for Pan, took second place, and Elena Tacchetto, 17, from St. Ignatius Catholic School, won third place for her performance on the piano.  

At the competition, the public and private school students performed on a number of instruments, including violin, voice, clarinet, euphonium, saxophone and steel pan.  

Students were judged by Glen Inanga, director of music at the University College of the Cayman Islands, and Grammy award-winning conductor and violinist John McLaughlin Williams.  

“We’ve seen a truly spectacular amount of progress in the level of music making among the students here in Cayman. It has risen exponentially in the last 10 years,” said Mr. McLaughlin Williams, who has been on the island since 2004. 

“Coming from off island, my perspective is naturally a little bit different. I hear students, quite often very advanced students, some on the cusp of professional careers… and I think what you heard here tonight is a huge step towards that. What we heard here tonight is in many aspects an international-level student playing performance,” he added. 

Other students who received participant trophies were: Aisha Stanuel-Taitte, St. Ignatius Catholic School, playing the euphonium; David Brown, Triple C School, voice; Keeley-Shaye Ebanks, St. Ignatius Catholic School/Cayman Music School, piano; Tsin Zan Graham, Cayman International School, violin; Conor O’Dea, St. Ignatius Catholic School, saxophone; Chamelle Williams, Cayman Academy, voice; Deidra Campbell, St. Ignatius Catholic School, clarinet; Nayil Arana, Cayman Music School, violin; Ericka Rockett-McBean, Clifton Hunter High School, voice, and Ryan Kyberd, St. Ignatius Catholic School, saxophone. 

In addition to their being honored with an award, the top three students also received cash prizes ranging from $150 to $500.  

The competition, which began in 2008, is part of the National Children’s Festival of the Arts, a series of music events put on by the Department of Education Services, the Ministry of Education, and Butterfield Bank. Events continue through June 18. 


Winner Ethan Whittaker has been interested in the steel pan since he was 11, owing in large part to his mother’s Trinidadian heritage. – PHOTO: SAMANTHA BONHAM