Honors Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Payne, J. B. 2021. Surveying Steel Band Directors: Genre Representation in U. S. Steel Band Concerts. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Jonah Payne, 2021


Background and objectives

Steel bands are ensembles composed of steel pans and an engine room, which usually consists of a drum set and other percussion instruments. This type of ensemble originated in Trinidad, and steel pans moved to the United States around 1949 (Smith, 2012). There are hundreds of steel bands in the United States today, yet there is currently little research on them. I found a gap in the literature regarding the genres of music performed by steel bands in the United States. I further expanded my study to include three primary research questions: What are the most common genres selected for performance, arrangement, and composition by US steel band directors? What factors influence US steel band directors’ decisions regarding repertoire selection, arrangements, and compositions? Which genres have the most and least notated repertoire available?


Using surveys and interviews, I conducted an exploratory study that sets the groundwork for future researchers. The surveys included a variety of question types such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and Likert-type scales. The interviews consisted of open-ended questions. Most of the survey results were quantitative, while the interviews yielded qualitative results.

Results and conclusions

Traditional Trinidadian styles were programmed, arranged, and composed the most; pop music was second in every category. Trying to match the group’s skill level with the difficulty of the music was found to be the number one influence on programming, composing, and arranging. Lastly, on average, steel band directors in this study believe that the genre with the most available repertoire for steel band is traditional Trinidadian music, while concerti are believed to have the least. Overall, more research must be done on steel bands while the art form is still relatively new.