Thursday, December 31, 2015

Steel drum classes for Winter 2016

The San Rafael classes scheduled to begin Tuesday January 5, 2016 have been cancelled since we did not have enough registrants. We will try again in the spring. Meanwhile we will be having an Intermediate class in El Cerrito on Tuesday evenings 8-9pm.

Free introductory steel drum class is continuing on Mondays 6-7pm. Joel and Wendy have the 7-8pm slot on Mondays. Linda has the 7-8pm slot on Tuesdays. Intermediates are 8-9pm on Tuesdays. Other individual classes will be scheduled based on availability. A new Kids steel drum class will begin at 10am on Saturday mornings.

I am launching a new Pandamentals class for Saturdays 11am., starting Jan. 16. This is a 12-week class that focuses strictly on vocabulary and will be very intense. You will be given a new piece of vocabulary every week and you will be expected to take it through all 12 keys at 60bpm. The goal is to eventually play all 12 pieces of vocabulary in all 12 keys in eighth-notes at 60bpm. At the end of the course, presuming you complete and master the exercises, you should be well equipped to improvise on any tune or progression. It’s $20 per class but just $150 (a $90 savings) if you pay for all 12 classes in advance. No refunds because I want you to see it through once you commit. But it’s going to be rigorous!

Let’s make it a Pan-filled year!
510 222 1123
10855 San Pablo Ave El Cerrito CA 94530

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What it takes to be a top notch pan player

This video of Master Pannist Duvone Stewart was shot 3 years ago when he visited the Bay Area. At the time, I was dieing to have a one-on-one with him; to pick his brains and perhaps get some nuggets that would improve my playing. Finally, I got my one-on-one during a car ride to a gig that I had invited him to sit-in on.
When I broached the subject of improvisation, Duvone's response was brief. He said: "Dis improvising ting is about how much you know, and how well you know your pan." And the lesson ended there.
After years of music classes, books and private lessons from musicians, I still wasn't happy with my playing. I mastered every exercise and etude but still struggled to incorporate them in my playing. It seemed there was something fundamental they were taking for granted that I knew, and proceeded to instruct me from that hidden premise. Well, I didn't know 'It'. And all the information I was given was stacked like a house of bricks on a false foundation.
Then one day while browsing the internet, I ran across JG, my first music teacher from 30 years ago. I looked him up and after our reconnaisance we got to talking about music. He wanted to know where I was. I told him about my frustrations, and after a few questions he said to me: "You know, improvisation is spontaneous composition. It all depends on two things: Theory and Technique." He was telling me in different words, exactly what Duvone had said to me in his brief lesson.
So I checked myself. With music Theory, I wasn't too bad. I had picked up a lot of information over the years in classes, lessons, workshops and books. Now Technique...aaah, how could I evaluate the level of my technique?
It turns out I never really had a systematic approach to developing technique on my pan. That's exactly where I was stymied. I took one lesson from JG again and he presented me with his approach to developing technique on any melodic instrument.
Today, I'm not wowing the world like Duvone in this video above, but I can tell you, I know my pan better than I ever did and I'm a lot happier with my playing as it truly reflects my level of knowledge of Theory and Technique on my pan.
If you're curious, come join our Pandamentals class at PanWest, Saturday mornings 10-11am. We are still at 10855 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito CA 94530.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Fall 2014 Steelpan Classes in session

OK Everyone:
I am back from vacation. Sorry I was out of contact, but that's what vacations are supposed to be like. I will try to address everyone's needs and requests hopefully before the Solano Stroll.
  • We are still at our same location 10855 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, at least until the end of the year, although our space is reduced. 
  •  Intermediates will resume on Wednesday Sept. 10, 8am. 
  • Pandamentals on Saturdays, won't get going until October. I am really excited about this space as I have a whole new approach and organized technique that is sure to improve your playing.
  • I am still working on resuming the Kids class as I have a a lot more requests from other parents.
  • Tuesday evening classes in San Rafael resumes Sept. 16
, 6-8pm at the San Rafael Community Center on B Street.
  • Our Thursday night Panjazz sessions also resume Sept. 11, 7pm.
Call me or email me with questions or concerns.
510 222 1123

Friday, March 21, 2014

We are springing into action! Join the steel drum fun!

It's been a while since we posted but we are alive and actively promoting our steel drum classes and programs. Here's what's happening:
  • Mondays 4-5pm we have a kids class for ages 10-16. The kids are enjoying playing the latest pop and Caribbean tunes on steel drums, such as Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky". Classes are held at the PanWest Center 10855 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito 94530. At 7pm we have free introductory classes for anyone interested.
  • Tuesdays 6-8pm we have Intermediate and Beginning steel drum classes respectively, in San Rafael. Here we've been in a Brazilian groove these past weeks with tunes like "Brazil", "Black Orpheus", and "Samba de Orfeo". For more information on these classes, call Harry Best at 510 222 1123.
  • Wednesdays 8-9pm we are back at the Panwest Center in El Cerrito with another Intermediate class focusing on some of the same tunes.
  • We just recently launched a Thursday night class at 7pm for professional musicians on other instruments who are interested in exploring steel drums. This class has been a real blast and is growing fast.
  • Saturday mornings 10-11am, we have Pandamentals, fundamental drills for those wanting to get a more in depth understanding of the steel drum apart from just learning tunes.
  • Friday night jams will be returning soon with appearances by local steel drum professionals and students of PanWest. Keep your eye on this blog for dates.
  • Also, we plan to have some Pan in the Park picnics open to all students, their friends and family members, as well as the general public.
  • Even with all he great activities we regret to announce that our landlord at Panwest plans to sell the building in El Cerrito so we may be moving soon. We'll keep you posted.
  • Now is the time to get in and join the fun! Call Harry Best with any questions, at 510 222 1123.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Musicians needed for Advanced steel drum class

We're looking for 5 capable musicians to join our steel drum group in the eastbay. Requires discipline and a willingness to learn. Helps if you read music but not essential. Call Harry at PanWest Caribbean Steelpan Music Center in El Cerrito: 510 222 1123.

PanWest featured in Contra Costa Times

PanWest featured on El Cerrito Patch website


New Digital Pan Sounds available for panKAT

New digital pan sound samples are now available for the panKAT. See link below:

Holiday Pan Jam!

Harry Best and friends will host a special holiday pan concert this Saturday, Dec. 15, 8pm at Soccer4, 2101 Telegraph Ave, Oakland. Come enjoy the holidays with some warm Caribbean steelpan sounds. Admission is free! Harry will have his newly released CD on sale. Also available on, and Call 510 222 1123 for more info.

Free Beginners Pan Classes Every Monday night

We are now offering FREE beginners pan classes every Monday night at 7pm. Just drop in. Our address is 10855 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito 94530.

Steelpan Package for sale

Former student is selling her pan, case, stand and music stand at a bargain price. Call Harry if you're interested 510 222 1123.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Friday Night Pan Lime!

Come play a tune, listen or just hang out, 8-12midnite. Bring a friend. Beverages on sale. PanWest 10855 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito CA 94530.

PanWest to showcase students at Solano Stroll

PanWest students from San Rafael will showcase their talents at the 38th Annual Solano Avenue Stroll, "Step into the future", Sunday, September 9 between 11am and 1pm. Among those performing will be Glenn Bowland, Linda Fox, Albert DeLima, Maureen Delema, Megan Black, Louise Yost and Margie Wade. The students' set will be followed by Shabang Steel Drum Trio featuring Harry Best, Dexter Bruce and Ed McCarver.
Since 1974, The merchants, restaurants, and professionals, as well as the twin cities of Albany and Berkeley CA, have hosted the Solano Avenue Stroll, the east bay's largest street festival! The Solano Avenue Merchants Association invites you to come and see what makes Solano Avenue such a wonderful place.
Over five hundred vendors, non-profit organizations, food booths and entertainers!
Participants and the event guests visit from everywhere throughout California; as well as neighboring states from Nevada to Maine.
The fun begins at 10 am with the opening of Solano Avenue businesses and Stroll booths and the kick-off is the theme parade with about 100 groups.
After the parade, you can visit one of 50 entertainers, 50 food booths, 150 juried arts and crafters, state of the art mechanical rides, and 150 community non-profit and government organizations, not to mention the unique and popular professional services, restaurants, and shops already here on Solano Avenue.
You will hear the best in local music, dance and other performances and absolutely stunning costumes from all over the globe!
This is a family event! A special area set aside just for kids offers giant slides, carnival games, clowns, jugglers, stilt walkers, face painters, magicians, and maybe even wizards and elves -- come and see for yourselves...
Come join us for an afternoon in the sun.