Khan Cordice

June 26, 1990 – Khan Cordice was born to Elvis Cordice, originally of St. Vincent, and Ruth Naomi Isaac (deceased) of Freemans Village. He was raised in the Villa Community. He began his early education at the Villa Primary School before moving on to the Antigua Grammar School (AGS). 

Growing up, Cordice considered himself ‘fortunate to have two great parents who were very driven in their various fields’. His father has been a member of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda for the past thirty plus years while his mother ran an upholstering business on Fort Road, Naomi’s Upholstery. He was able to learn from his mother’s upholstering skills and says that he is able to do a bit of work on his vehicle as well as those of friends.  As a young boy, when his father, who was also into music, would try to introduce him to the discipline, he had no interest. Even after taking up music as a subject when he began AGS, Cordice still had not given thought to a future in the area even though he was doing very well in the subject. 

Cordice’s musical involvement began shortly after writing his Common Entrance Exams in 2002. One of his friends at the time, who also played for the Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra, invited him to accompany him to the panyard. What was supposed to be a simple lime to pass the time became an initiation into the world of the steel pan.The band’s leadership sought to make use of him since he was there. He started that evening playing double tenor and this became a good excuse to be at the panyard liming every night as Cordice had no intentions of playing in the Panorama competition. However, he became so good at it that he started to teach others the arrangement and the pan group wasted no time securing his talents for the competition that same year. 

He continued to perform with Hell’s Gate over the years. By the fourth form at the AGS, Cordicewas also a member of the National Youth Pan Orchestra (ABNPO). At the ABNPO he became acquainted with fellow musician, Gavin Francis who opened his eyes further into the world of pan and invited him to join the group, ‘Just 6’. Francis offered him the opportunity to do his first steel band arrangement, ‘Lambada’ as part of the group and assisted him in expanding his networking outside of Antigua and Barbuda. Cordice admired Francis’ prowess and impressive network and sought to put in the extra practice and hard work to improve his quality of playing even further. He began taking lessons from Aubrey ‘Lacu’ Samuel at the Department of Culture to aid in this endeavour. 

Barbara Mason who spearheaded the steel pan initiatives within the Department of Culture was a very influential figure in Cordice’s life. She was interested in all aspects of his development and encouraged him to continue improving himself. Through her persistence, he secured a scholarship from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to complete a B.A. in Music at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad. He graduated with first-class honours in 2012 and received the Beryl McBurnie prize for best performing arts student, and for the top music and creative arts student. 

Following UWI, he went on to Northern Illinois University (NIU) where he completed a Masters in Music in 2015. His tenure at NIU helped him to forge a working relationship with his then instructor, Liam Teague who took him touring in various US cities including Philadelphia and Texas. Khan mentions that he was greatly inspired by the work of Len Boogsie Sharpe of Trinidad and Tobago, who he is good friends with today, and would put in the time to listen to his arrangements and take notes long before meeting him at university. 

Khan’s stride to the pinnacle as an arranger began in his eighteenth year with his arrangement for the Antigua and Barbuda National Youth Pan Orchestra in the 2008 Gemonites Mood of Pan 25-A-Side Competition.  His arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke was well executed by an elite group of young pannists resulting in victory from among a distinguished cast of national arrangers. He also was the champion arranger for Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra for the 2016 25-A-Side Moods of Pan competition.

In 2009 he got his first opportunity to arrange for Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra in the annual Panorama Competition in the Carnival festivities. He recalls being asked by Veron Henry what tune he would choose and being drafted to ‘assist’ with the arrangement from start to finish, resulting in his first national panorama arrangement and championship.  His tune of choice was King Swallow’s “Party in Space”. 

He is the youngest arranger to have won a panorama in Antigua and Barbuda (19 years).  Overall, he has arranged 12 panorama pieces for Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra, 9 of which materialised into championships, one second and two third places. Notably, he has the record for the most panorama championships (9) in Antigua and Barbuda.

He has also arranged for several schools for the School’s Panorama Competition includingAntigua Girls’ High School, All Saints Secondary, and Clare Hall Secondary. 

Beyond the shores of his homeland, Khan is developing a wide-ranging portfolio as a player and an arranger.  In 2020 he placed 1st runner-up in the International Pan Ramajay He has been engaged as an arranger in the medium bands (Angel Harp) and a drill master in large bands (Exodus) National Panorama Competition in Trinidad & Tobago, with both bands being finalists in their respective category.  He was commissioned by the San Jacinto College (United States) to produce a special feature, six pieces which he arranged and titled ‘Shades of My Caribbean’. 

Drill Master leading Exodus Steel Orchestra National Panorama Night

He also regularly represents Antigua and Barbuda around the globe as a musical ambassador.

After returning to Antigua, Cordice served as a music teacher from 2015 to 2019 at the Clare Hall Secondary School. In summer 2019, he had the opportunity to serve as Deputy Director of Culture before taking up the role of Director of Culture in February 2020. He describes his post as Director as ‘one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life but I am working to build the capacity of the department’.

One plan that he hopes to achieve is to structure the ‘Arts in the Classroom’ initiative in which the Department offers support, personnel and other resources to schools to enhance the offering of performing arts programs. He hopes to drive greater inclusion of more community groups in propelling the arts in the nation.

Beyond pan, Khan is also a songwriter, having among his accolades ‘Steel Pan War’ song by Queen Thalia one of Antigua and Barbuda’s best contemporary calypsonians, one of two songs in her winning 2018 performance..  The song was also the winning tune of choice for the Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra in the National Panorama Competition of 2018 when there were the first joint champions (Hells Gate and Panache Steel Orchestras).

Outside of his musical accomplishments, Cordice occasionally plays golf and dominoes .He was a member of the National Cadet Corps of Antigua and Barbuda. He is married with two daughters and hopes to one day take up the mantle of doing upholstery as his mom once did. He is also desirous of kickstarting a big brother, big sister program to help disadvantaged youth in the community. 

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