THE STEEL WORKSHOP

A project dedicated to Steelpan 

The Steel Workshop was officially established on the 1st of April 2016 by Leticia “Tish” Viljoen.  With the assistance of a crowd-funding platform through The Arts Foundation called BOOSTED, Tish raised enough money to purchase a small orchestra of steelpan instruments from pan maker, ace pannist, pan teacher, arranger & professional musician, Lennox Jordan.

Her initial concept was to do “travelling workshops” to schools around the Auckland region. She wanted to bring the pans into their environment with the hope of creating enough interest amongst the teachers and students to create more school steel bands.

Raising Awareness and Developing Interest

With roots in Trinidad & Tobago stretching back generations, today there are steelbands active in over 50 countries around the world, continuing a richly historical art.   As the steelpan is still a relatively new instrument (only invented in the 1930s), it is not commonly known here in New Zealand.  The challenge is encouraging the schools and communities to invest in their own pan instruments, which need to be purchased off-shore from a pan maker / or pan company.


Some schools have already shown incredible interest, such as Bream Bay College (from Ruakaka) with a variety of steelbands programs: called “The Panimals”, “Steel Panda” and "The Panchovies".   We have had a developing interest from local schools in Auckland and other areas, and run regular pan workshops with the Wesley Intermediate School students in Mt Roskill.


Although the pan family is small in New Zealand, continued efforts from community steelbands also help raise awareness of the pan and provide a wonderfully welcoming environment for anyone who is interested to be part of the pan family.  These include The Caribbeanz Southern Stars Steelband (NZ's original and oldest Steelband, established in 2005),  Bay Silver Pans (from Katikati) & The New Zealand Steel Pan Academy (established by Marion Titmuss), Sounds of Steel (based in Taranaki and established by the late Teiron Jones).


Workshops for Everyone

Aside from school workshops, The Steel Workshop has also been approached to run music workshops for adult groups.  It’s a great team-building experience and fun group activity. The Steel Workshop also offers one-on-one lessons where you can learn to play the steel drum.

In addition to the above, we also offer an entertainment option, where clients can hire our established steelband, Steel'n Beats, as live music and entertainment for their next event.  Our services are flexible, ranging from a solo pan performance right up to our full 8-10 piece steelband.  We encourage clients to get in touch directly to discuss their entertainment needs and budget.

Get to Know Our Founder

"Tish Viljoen - An individual with passion."

Born in South Africa, Tish has been living in Auckland New Zealand since 2007, receiving her citizenship in 2016.  

She began playing the steelpan at school in South Africa in 1997 from the age of 12.  Her love for the instrument has continued to strengthen over time and from truly understanding the roots and story of the instrument's Caribbean heritage.   "The world of pan is a fascinating and exciting place and I am so happy to be part of it!  I just want everyone to hear it and experience it for themselves!" 


In 2016 she founded The Steel Workshop providing steelpan tuition, events, and workshops.  She also works with other already established steelbands around New Zealand, including The Caribbeanz Southern Stars, The Panimals, and Bay Silver Pans.   She is an active member of PANZ (The Pan Association of Australia and New Zealand) and held the vice president position in 2016 and was voted PANZ President for 2017, and again in 2018.  Tish has assisted in the organization of the PANZfest Steelband Festivals in both 2017 & 2019, which took place in Cairns & Brisbane, Australia respectfully.  She was also on the planning committee for the first Aotearoa Steelband Festival, which took place in Auckland in February 2018.


Passionate about growing this music in New Zealand, Viljoen’s vision of a tightly-knit small ensemble working on ambitious arrangements was realized when she founded Steel'n Beats Steelband in 2018.  Based in Auckland, Steel’n Beats are at the heart of a range of projects using music to inspire and educate, in chorus with an unlikely global steelband underground.   “We have become a family and our gigs are the highlight of everyone’s week,” she says.   Under her musical direction, Steel’n Beats continue to be local goodwill ambassadors for one of the great musics of modern times. 


Determined to build interest in the younger generation of Aotearoa New Zealand, Tish has in 2020 started the Auckland Youth Steel Orchestra for children between the ages of 7 and 16.   Still a small unit, her goal is to slowly build up a growing steel orchestra purposely focused on children, no matter their musical or social ability.   "I want them to experience the fun, excitement and joy of playing in a steelband, as there is nothing else like it!" 


Enjoy Eclectic Sounds

Tish also performs as a solo pannist for various functions and events.  You can expect to hear a bit of everything in her set list, such as classical, pop, traditional calypso, soca, jazz and more.  She is inspired by the talented pannists around the world.  

Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide music education with steelpans in a fun way, and to anyone no matter your background and musical ability.

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