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Music’s Liam Teague wins homeland honors

August 31, 2012
Liam Teague

Liam Teague

Liam Teague, NIU’s “Paganini of the Steelpan,” was named today as a winner of a silver Hummingbird Medal from his native Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

An associate professor of steelpan in the School of Music and co-director of the NIU Steelband, Teague is in good company as his homeland confers its highest accolades on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Aug. 31, 1962, independence.

The National Awards of Trinidad and Tobago recognize the contributions of citizens and non-nationals who have had a significant and positive impact on the twin-island Republic.

All citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and non-nationals of distinction, alive or deceased, are eligible to be considered for National Awards.

The Hummingbird Medal is awarded for loyal and devoted service beneficial to Trinidad and Tobago in any field of human endeavor or for gallantry or other humane action.

“I feel a great sense of gratitude that Trinidad and Tobago would bestow such an honor upon me, and I accept this award with humility,” Teague says.

“I would like to pay special recognition to the many steelpan pioneers whose sacrifice, dedication and persistence to the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago have been extremely influential to people like me,” he adds. “I also am grateful to my family, friends, fellow steelpan musicians, people of Trinidad and Tobago and Northern Illinois University for the many years of encouragement and support.”

Logo: 50 Years of Independence - Trinidad & TobagoRegarded internationally as a virtuoso of the steelpan, Teague came to NIU in 1993 as an 18-year-old student chasing dreams and broadening his musical horizons.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance in 1997 and a master of music in 1999. In 2000, he was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the NIU Alumni Association.

Deeply committed to demonstrating the great musical possibilities of the steelpan while earning global legitimacy for the instrument in the music world, he has toured and performed in Europe, Asia, North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, he is teaching his craft to new generations.

Under the wings of Teague and countryman Cliff Alexis, NIU steelplan students tackle an eclectic selection of music, from the traditional calypso to classical literature to rhythm and blues to new compositions. In the spring of 2010, they performed with NIU’s legendary Jazz Ensemble.

People who see Teague perform “leave with a greater respect for the steelpan if they haven’t already heard what Liam can do with it,” says percussionist Robert Chappell, a Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus in the School of Music and a longtime admirer and collaborator of Teague’s.

“Liam is the one of the only people in the world who can play steelpan in any style, from classical to raga to jazz to world music.”