Born in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, Khion D.J. De Las has emerged as a musical force of nature in the world of Steelpan performance.
Khion De Las is currently completing his M.M. degree from Northern Illinois University where he focused primarily on Steelpan Performance, Ethnomusicological Research, Conducting and World Music. In 2011 he received a B.A. Music (hons) degree from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus.
With an extensive background in steel band orchestral playing, “Khadence” as he is popularly known, was a member of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, Southern Marines Steel Orchestra, Shades in Steel, NLCB Fonclaire, and Phase II Pan Groove, to name a few. For many years Khion arranged music for steel bands in both the Junior Panorama and the National Panorama competitions, and has had these bands rank highly in each of these competitions.
While at the University of the West Indies, he composed scales and exercises for the steelpan, which were published in the 2011-2012 Steelpan Scales and Exercises book at that university. At a very early age his career as a performer, songwriter and composer began having been introduced to the piano at age 5, and the Steelpan a few months later. Considered a prodigy, this aspiring young musician gradually added nine other instruments to his expanding repertoire. At his secondary school, the prestigious Presentation College San Fernando, his music teacher, Mrs. Cynthia Lee Mack, discovered his immense talent and helped him develop his voice by enlisting him in all of the school’s many choirs. He was then awarded Most Outstanding Choir Member and Musician and later further developed his vocal abilities by studying voice with Mr. Jessel Murray and joining the UWI Arts Chorale.
Not being content with music alone, Khion explored his interest in acting, dance choreography and music consulting. Khion became heavily involved in theatre arts having played both leading and chorus roles in many musicals such as Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, The Newsies, Scrooge, Treasure Island and Pirates of Penzance. He was also the dance and fight scenes choreographer for Newsies and a music and stage assistant for Peter Pan. Khion has travelled to many countries to perform as a musician and dancer including South Korea, Costa Rica, Guyana, Venezuela and Martinique to name a few. He hopes to soon lecturer at the university level, educating students about the Steelpan and its origins.
De Las’ composition skills have grown significantly over the years, writing solo pieces for the steel pan, as well as a piece for steelpan quartet and other large ensemble compositions. Additionally, Khion has gained experience in Middle Eastern, Afro-pop and Gamelan music with membership in each of those World Music Ensembles. As a member of both the NIU Concert Chorale and NIU World Steelband, he wrote and conducted an arrangement for both of those ensembles for the 2012 fall concert. As a conductor, Mr. De Las has been the music director of the Phi Mu Alpha Men’s Fraternity Choir for the past year.
While at NIU, Khion has frequently conducted the NIU Steelband at various on and off campus performances, touring with the Steelband to different states and schools. Repertoire he has conducted include: “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edward Greig, “Symphony No. 4 Op. 90 "Italian" Mvt. IV” by Mendelsohn, and an original composition for Steelpan by Dr. Jeannine Remy, an NIU Alumnus, entitled “The Renewal”. As an arranger, Khion has been privileged to arrange music for various genres for the NIU Steelband, and was also included as a drummer in the band.
As one of the Graduate Assistants for the Steelpan studio at NIU, Khion is also one of the directors of the NIU All University Steelband, which is a group open to any student faculty member of the university. While co-directing the All U. Steelband, his duties include helping people not familiar with the steelpan to learn how to play the instrument as well as educating members about the history of the steelpan. He has transcribed, arranged and conducted various genres of music for this steelband. Khion was also a steelpan secondary lessons teacher at NIU.
Improvisation, Music Research, Launching Your own Music Business, Chorale Arranging, Choral Conducting, Orchestral Conducting, Music History, Music Theory including Schenkerian Analysis and Jazz Piano Harmonies are other areas he has studied over the years, broadening his experience as a professional musician.