About Arthur Culpeper and the Steelpan
Arthur Culpeper was born 26 July 1935 in Trinidad. He grew up in Diego Martin where his love for the steelpan began.
Culpeper was a sailor who came to England and like many others eventually settled here permanently. He arrived in London in 1956 and in 1957 settled in Manchester where he played with the various steel bands.
His teaching career began with Manchester Music Service in 1975. This came about when an enthusiastic music teacher, David Wainwright, was given the task of introducing indigenous music from the Caribbean into the school curriculum. Culpeper was a pan tuner at this time, but as his teaching career became established, his tuning reduced to being only a hobby.
With the rapid demand for steel pans, Culpeper worked closely with “Riley” Maynard (Manchester) and the late “Biggs” Yearwood (London) to supply high-quality instruments to a large number of schools and individuals across the North West of England.
It was not long before Culpeper and Wainwright formed the Manchester Youth Steel Orchestra. In 1987 they toured East and West Berlin with the Wycombe High School Choir, and was given the privilege to perform on German national television.
Culpeper also worked tirelessly to promote the steelpan as a musical instrument and gained an annual residency at the Royal Northern College of Music for school steelbands to perform.
Many of his pupils went on to form steelbands of their own and a small number followed in his footsteps by teaching steelpan for Manchester Music Service. This led to Culpeper being promoted to Leader of Manchester Music Service’s World Music Team. Culpeper was still teaching more than 12 years after retiring until his untimely death in November 2007.
In July 2008, some of his former students organised a concert in his memory. The month of July was chosen to mark his birthday and as it was the month in which Culpeper’s notable Steel Band Festivals were held in conjunction with the then Steelband Association of Great Britain (SAGB).