Pittsburgh Changemaker: Chris Hnat

Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers. We interviewed Chris Hnat, drummer for Soundwaves Steelband, KST’s resident steel pan ensemble.


What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

What I do for the community changes to suit what is needed at the moment, and that changes from time to time. It all has to do with the medium I use, which are the steelpans created by Phil Solomon. I help create an environment for people to learn all the necessary tools to understand music and how it benefits our lives. It helps us in learning how things work and how they are put together. At the moment, one thing I’m attempting to do is help nudge music, so it may evolve into a newer shape… creating many new opportunities for others to come, and be able to have this tool available to them so they may even progress higher as people, and perhaps have happy, healthier lives.

What was one defining moment of your life?

A defining moment in my life happened when the recession hit in 2008. Previous to that I had worked along side Phil Solomon for 12 years, as his assistant, building steelpans. We developed school programs, instruments for professionals across the world. Huge waves of positive changes happened from the environments Phil Solomon created. I witnessed many changes with my own two eyes. Knowing I wanted to be involved with steel pans—it wasn’t until we lost our work due to budget cuts and I was out of work—which is when I really decided that I was in this to help make changes in the world. Since then, I have had to make changes deep within myself and search for the understandings that will allow me to make the most effective changes that I can.


What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemanker in their community?

Seek deep understanding of yourself, others and your surroundings. Get to know where everything is really at in this present moment. Observe.

What is a song on your playlist that motivates you?

A song that motivates me is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. As I learn more about the history of that piece of music, it drives me to want to understand and learn all the fine, deep understandings that the great composers have used to relay what they wanted to say through the music.

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