Professional Arts Profile – Akua Leith

Akua Leith – Artistic Director/Conductor of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra

Akua Leith is a Fulbright Fellow who graduated from the Northern Illinois University (NIU) with a Masters of Music in Conducting with emphasis on Steelpan Performance, in May 2016. He graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Arts.

Akua started playing the steelpan at the age of twelve when he entered South East Port of Spain Secondary School.   To complement his natural playing abilities, he later attended classes in music theory at the Trinity All Generation School of the Arts (TAGS) in Port of Spain.  Two years after joining TAGS as a student, he was selected to be a Steelpan Tutor and Arranger at the school.   Akua was eventually promoted to the positions of Vice Principal of Performance as well as Music Director of the TAGS Prodigies ensemble.

As a performer, Mr. Leith has toured extensively while promoting the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.  He has participated in tours throughout Europe, Asia, North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.   Prior to pursuing graduate studies, he performed with the National Steel Symphony Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago as a full-time Musician. This allowed him to perform for Heads of Governments from around the world. During his graduate studies, he performed with the NIU World Steelband, under the direction of Liam Teague and steelpan pioneer Clifford Alexis. With a concentration in conducting he was also afforded the opportunity to conduct the NIU Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Ronnie Wooten.

Akua is committed to the promotion of the steelpan instrument and the demonstration of its versatility with all genres of music. He has chosen to contribute to this promotion through performing, composing, creating arrangements and educating others.  He has had the opportunity to work with students of all ages and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. His teaching experience in Trinidad and Tobago includes being a Part-Time Lecturer at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as, a Steelpan Tutor at TAGS, Holistic Music School, Cascade Servol Life Centre, the Music Schools in the Panyard initiative and the City Angels music programme. While in the United States of America, he has taught, conducted workshops and created arrangements with several groups, including, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra Steel Orchestra (CYSO Steel Orchestra), Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFÉ), based in Washington DC, Naperville High School in Illinois, and Birch Creek Music Performance Center, Wisconsin. He also co-directed the University Steelband at NIU and served as one of the grad assistants for the NIU World Steelband.

Some of Mr. Leith’s other accomplishments include successfully leading various ensembles into competitions.  Groups such as TAGS, Chord Masters Steel Orchestra (Single pan category), and Pan-Demonium Steel Orchestra have all emerged as winners or finalists under his direction.  One of his crowning achievements is when he led TAGS to capture first place in both the Steel Ensemble category and the Chamber Steelpan Orchestra category at the 2010 Trinidad and Tobago Biennial Music Festival competition championship.

The results of Mr. Leith’s exceptional background as a student, teacher and performer are clearly seen in his teaching/coaching skills.  He is creative, patient and dedicated to providing a high standard of music education and performance.