If you ask Nola Barton what her son Sherwin’s first language was, she’ll respond frankly: steelpan. An American of Trinidadian heritage, Sherwin was born into steelpan culture and has lived the art form his entire life. A native of Hyattsville, Maryland, Thwaites was exposed to a variety of musical styles at an early age: go-go, jazz, and gospel through his friends and calypso, soul, and reggae at home. In the 1980s, Yo! MTV Raps added hip hop to that list and he found himself enthralled. Despite this broad love for music, Thwaites never strayed far from his beloved steelpan – he spent his evenings and weekends translating all of his favorite melodies to steelpan, eventually arranging music for ensembles he performed with throughout grade school. Sherwin’s passion for steelpan eventually took him to one of the top five music conservatories in the United States, where formal training augmented his innate predilection for music.
Since then, Thwaites has established a reputable career as a steelpan educator and musician, devoting his life to the advancement of steelpan culture. He has toured internationally, performing throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, bringing the steelpan to new horizons. He is a resident steelpan musician with Native Deen and has accompanied his classmate and Grammy award winning artist, Esperanza Spalding. Thwaites has also performed alongside steelpan icons, including Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Robert Greenidge, Ray Holman, Ken “Professor” Philmore, and Andy Narell. He has also helped some of the world’s most notable steel orchestras, such as Phase II Pan Groove, bring home numerous Panorama titles in Trinidad and Tobago. He currently serves as Musical Director and Arranger for Oasis Youth Steel Orchestra in Newark, NJ and Assistant Musical Director for Pan United Youth Movement, based in Washington, DC. In addition, Thwaites teaches a steeldrum course at Alfred E. Smith High School in New York City. He has held positions as a Clinician at Mississippi Valley State University and Catonsville High School in Catonsville, Maryland. Thwaites unique perspective yields authentic steelpan compositions integrated with sublime cadences and transcendent world sounds.