Friday, November 21, 2014

Being Thankful Every Day!

The Thanksgiving holiday is almost here. For many of us school is finishing up, businesses are winding down, malls are busier, and still everyone seems to be in great mood. We have so much to be thankful for as steel pan players. We have so many things going for us. Not only do we have the talent and perseverance to play steel pans, but we are flexible and adaptable in our very nature.

The thing I am most thankful for this season are those family and friends who actively support my playing. I know this is true for many of us. Family and friends are our rock. They are the foundation that supports us in bringing steel pan to the masses. It gives us the chance to follow our passion. So when you sit down this holiday, take a moment to thank those who support you. I know I will.

A special thank you goes out to our Steel Pan Collective members and supporters. We are so grateful for your support. Thank you.

Have a great holiday.


Steel Pan Collective
Learn. Connect. Perform. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

College and Pan

Members of Bates Steel Pan Orchestra (Bates College) 

Got a great email from a parent interested in finding steel pan for her kid after high school. Her kid wanted to continue playing, but didn't want to necessarily major in steel pan. I got to thinking about it and I thought our community needs to do a better job at promoting pan programs for those entering college.

I sent her a list of the schools in the states the kid was looking at. Hopefully that helps. She seems awfully nice. (Hopefully, we add another student to the membership group).

But, I thought I really should do more than that. It seems like a simple problem with maybe a simple solution. We offer access to the Haskett Directory of U.S. Steel Drum Bands based in schools and universities to our members. This list is geared more to school directors. But what about the kids planning to go to college? No need to stop playing once you graduate from school, right?

Hmm? We will have to noodle on that one for a bit. I think the Steel Pan Collective can come up with something. There are too many great programs out there to not come up with a solution.

Stay tuned.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning Every Day

Phew! The one thing you can say about us here at the Steel Pan Collective is we are constantly learning something every day. Couple that with working in any kind of steel pan practice can result in our waking hours just flying by.

This week, we learned all kinds of new stuff about the business world and ourselves.  We learned about contracts and getting commitments and why they are important up front. We learned about musicians differences and similarities when it comes to how they got involved in pan. We learned that not all of us in the pan community actually play the instrument. We learned that online fundraising takes some planning. We finally learned that music festivals have to have a purpose. Otherwise, why would bands come and also the public?

Still, we continue to move along. We plan plan plan the Pan People Music Festival. We work hard to make sure our board stays on track and keeps the organization humming along. We realize that the phone vs. email might work best. (Isn't it funny, that we fall back to the phone to get stuff done)

Today I wrote an article  that will appear in next month's Profiles in Pan. Members will hear the story of Rick Henson and how he became involved in pan and how he is building a steel band community in Colorado. It is a very inspiring story.

So I guess this week, we as pan players take that talent for persistence, perseverance, and determination and apply it to not only steel pan but running a non-profit organization. We take are inspiration from the kid in the picture.


Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective
Learn. Connect. Perform

Friday, October 10, 2014

Passion and Pan - Making stuff happen

One of the great things about steel pan is the community that has grown up around it and supports it. Each day, we meet new folks who are interested in connecting with us here at the SPC. The common interest is their love of pan. The passion also comes through when we do the Profiles in Pan for the member newsletter. It came through loud and clear in the interviews with Tom, George, Ruth, Char, Ansel, Jim, Mia, and George. Some found their passion for pan when they were very young. Others found it later on in life. It is really exciting to talk to them and share their story.

I can't think of another "instrument" that fires up the passions in so many people. Is it the same for the violin, the drums, the guitar, the clarinet. Doubt it. This is a community instrument and one with a lot of people who love it.

We are in the midst of planning the 2015 Pan People Music Festival right now. On some days, it seems like two steps forward and one step back in getting stuff done. Still, it is the passion that drives us on.

Today, we secured the film we wanted to show on the Friday before the music performances. It is Pan! Our Music Odyssey. We'll get to see that passion for pan on the big screen. We wanted to have the film for the Pan People "Film" Festival. The filmmakers were passionate about getting it shown in the U.S. We are so excited that they picked our venue.

Have a great week and live the passion.


Friday, September 12, 2014

10,000 hours or 10 years?

It's been a crazy week. We are in the middle of doing outreach to bands possibly playing the 2015 Pan People Music Festival. We are also celebrating Steel Pan Month. (Any reason for us to buy cake, right?). Also spoke with the filmmakers responsible for the movie Pan: Our Music Odyssey. And finally, met with a potential board member who is a super pan player and eager to help us out.

Anyway, all that activity really hammered the point home that we need to continue doing what we love - and that's play steel pan. No matter how much paperwork or phone calls we make, pan playing has to have its own dedicated time.

I remember hearing or reading somewhere that to be considered excellent at something, you have to stick with it for either 10,000 hours or 10 years. When you think of the all the great and famous musicians - you'll find that many of them reached one or both of those milestones. Mozart, The Beatles, Boogsie Sharpe, Ray Holman, Andy Narell. They made time to do what they loved.

So, make sure you stick to playing pan and rack up your hours too. Keep the distractions to a minimum and stay focused. You'll get there and so will we.


Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective

P.S. Just a couple of weeks left on those discounted memberships. Don't miss out. These prices won't go on forever.

Friday, August 29, 2014

National Steel Pan Month

Did you know that the steel pan was finally declared the national musical instrument of Trinidad and Tobago on August 30, 1992. Kind of strange for an instrument whose interest spans decades before. Several organizations in Trinidad took it upon themselves to create a celebration for that day. The National Steel Pan Month was born out of that.

I'm not quite sure when the "month" starts and ends. I assume it starts August 30 - but could very well be the whole month of August. In any case, we took it upon ourselves to start our celebration in September. The Steel Pan Collective is celebrating by offering discounted memberships and a chance for non-members to see some of our member benefits. New members will receive $10 off their membership rates. Business supporters get $150 knocked off theirs as well. As far as the chance to see some of the member benefits, non-members can sign up and receive this month's September Pan e-Newsletter. It will come complete with Profiles in Pan as well as a expert column by noted musician Don Prorak.

So we hope you take it upon yourself to take a moment to think about the gift Trinidad and Tobago have given all of us - the steel pan. Celebrate National Steel Pan Month.

Skip Waugh

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Times They Are A Changin'

There is change in the air. Maybe it's that time of year. School starting. Cooler weather moving in. With those changes comes a desire to try something new. It reminds me so much of the journey we all take when it comes to playing pan.

Remember what is was like when you first heard pan for the first time? Seen your first pan musician or group? Picked up the mallets yourself and gave it try? There is something very enlivening when it comes to embarking on new adventures. Pan is no different. We are our most excited in the beginning.

But what happens when the newness wears off? How easy is it to slip into boredom or discouragement when we mastered those first dozen songs. Where do you go next? If there are no foreseeable avenues, playing pan becomes a tad harder to do. You look and look but still wonder why you are doing it. For many of us, it is pure love of the instrument, its sound, and the camaraderie we have with others that keeps us in it. But is that enough? Maybe yes - maybe no.

Maybe it is just this time of year, that we pannists make changes. Summer is winding down. Outdoor gig bookings are slowing. We start to see our "off season" as a time to regroup and reimagine why we play pan. To blow on the spark that got us into pan in the first place.

Some of us will embark on playing with different groups, trying a new style of music, or learning another instrument in the pan family. We are willing to risk pursuing that opportunity to grow more in the instrument. We all yearn for something more. Maybe it just points out our humanity in that we always want something more. We want to grow.

So take that glowing ember of excitement that got you into pan and give it a gentle blow. Keep playing and supporting pan in your area and across the country. It will be just like it was in the beginning. And when it seems like it is harder than before, remember you'll find your way. Others did, so can you.

Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective

Friday, August 8, 2014

Putting the You in YouTube

Is your latest steel pan performance on YouTube? If not, it should be.

You need to be on YouTube whether you are looking for future gigs, new students, or just showing the latest song you learned. Unlike other social media - YouTube offers the sights and sounds of steel pan. Don't get me wrong. The other social media is nice. And when it is tied together can make a powerful way to get the word about steel pan. YouTube has to be part of your steel pan playing strategy.

Type in 'steel pan' or 'steel drum orchestra' and you'll find a surprising number of videos. Some are instructional, some promotional, some just capturing a pannist's or group's performance. They are always enjoyable to watch.

It is also a great way to pick up on a song you are learning. It's almost like being in a Trinidad panyard. You watch someone play the song on the screen and then you try it. (Thank goodness for that pause button). The chances you'll shorten that learning curve with YouTube. Also, it is a great way for you to also include your own performances to see how you look and sound.

I am strong believer in having a presence on YouTube. Having nothing up makes it tougher to convince others of your abilities. Videos adds credibility.

Here is a couple of suggestions:
1) Video and Post it. Also note the song you are playing.
2) Promote! Promote! Promote! Let others know through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, etc.) Use your own channels and couple it with that of the Steel Pan Collective. Most importantly, be consistent about it.
3) Embed and Link. If you have website, embed the video(s) or put a link to your video(s).

Take advantage of the technology we have these days. It is pretty user friendly. That's great news for the steel pan player.

Look for the SPC YouTube Channel in the coming months. It'll be a place where our members can also post their videos.


Skip Waugh

Friday, August 1, 2014

Marketing? Can I Just Play Instead?

Marketing. The very name can strike fear into the heart of any musician. It is a necessary evil especially when our preference is to play or teach. Honestly, who has time for promotion? 

Marketing is absolutely critical for steel pan players and groups. We are not exactly playing instruments that are "mainstream," at least not in the U.S. Without consistent and timely marketing, the steel pan player and group has to fight to get noticed.  

We rely on word of mouth, public performances, and social media to get the word out. Clearly that is a mix of offline and online promotion. Is over reliance on one dangerous? Over reliance on any one method in marketing usually doesn't produce results we hope for. The ultimate goal is to figure out who you are, what you bring to the market, who your target audience is, and where the heck they are? Then you need to develop a plan to cover all the bases and stick to it. A sprinkling of marketing here and there doesn't cut it. 

I had a chance to speak with a number of players around the country over the past couple of weeks. Many of the solo pan players play small social events. Most have tailored their websites and messaging to speak directly to their target audiences. The best examples I found were those playing for weddings. They know the audience. The music they provide includes romantic, tropical, and dance/party music. Check out some of their sites. Most have their playlists up too. Some even have music samples to listen to. They constantly market through social media and word of mouth. They aren't afraid to foster relationships with those in the "wedding" industry. Talk about knowing their market.

So keep this in mind when you think about how to do your marketing:
  • Know what you bring to the market
  • Know who and where your target audience is
  • Be prepared to market constantly.
  • Plan and Execute
Those who do this consistently seem to be the ones positioned for long-term success. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Steel Pan and Individualism

Over the past few weeks, we got the chance to contact a number of steel pan players around the country. We were making the initial steps to just let people know about the Steel Pan Collective. We felt pretty good especially with all the feedback we received.

One interesting thing that struck us was the high number of individual solo players out there. It was a good reminder for us.

We kind of knew this going in due to our earlier market research. It was really interesting and a little ironic though. Steel pan was created and used in the early days in a group setting. At least for now in the U.S., there are a large number of musicians out there playing on their own.  Most can find other steel pan players if a client is willing to pay for a "band" or "orchestra". But most trek to their gigs on their own.

Maybe it is just an American thing. This country has always recognized and held up individualism as the ideal. Has that trickled into to steel pan playing at least in the U.S. Admittedly though, that calls for a different type of outreach from us at the Steel Pan Collective. How do you convince someone running a solo business to join an association with the word "collective" in the title. It can and will be tricky. Still we do see some merit in it all.

We still steel pan players banning together as a way to raise the exposure of the instrument. That's how the big stuff gets done. It is a bunch of individuals pulling together to make it happen. The cases of individuals doing it alone and building something that lasts are rare. You need help from others to make it all happen. We certainly can attest to that here at the SPC.

Anyway, we are enjoying getting the feedback from everyone. It has been fun and exciting. It definitely keeps us going.

Have a productive and musical weekend and upcoming week.


Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Steelband Tales Pt. 5

Here is the continuation of Steelband Tales from the last installment. The Ruth and George Parsons story gets very exciting....

There were no competitions on Monday, but we decided to make the Tuesday night competitions. On Tuesday night around 5:00, we are attempting to leave for the Tuesday night road trip and we had parked the trailer out in the street in front of Harvard Club, and a car was parked right in front of the trailer tongue so we couldn’t back our truck to the trailer.

But that wasn’t the only problem we had, very few of the back-ground  pan players had shown up. Tommy Chrichlow, our fabulous 4 pan player, was not there. And, our young drummer, Jason, was not coming. His mother called to say he had blisters on his hands from Jourvert morning and had homework so he wouldn’t be coming. So here we are. Stanley and others said we are not going. Bunny couldn’t see how we were going to find a route downtown because of the Masquerade bands on the streets. If not for Carole Andrews, our lead tenor, I am sure we wouldn’t have gone out. She kept insisting that we were going out. She was pleading with them. We have come so far, she said, we can’t quit now.  We have to go out because we get money for appearing at the competitions and the band has to have money, she said.

So, three people got on the phone looking for drummers and others started calling players. What about the car in front of the trailer? The truck which was to pull our trailer simply towed the car a good 30 yards ahead and hooked up to the trailer so at 6:00 PM or so we are leaving Harvard Harps’ yard with everyone on the phone trying to hustle up the players and a drummer. Finally we got a couple of background pan players to show.

And here came the Japanese girls, Iuki, Miuki, Wuki, Suzuki and two other names I cannot remember. They were wonderful girls, very talented and extremely pleasant. They had come to Trinidad for Carnival and to play steel pan. They all play in Japan. Miuki plays in the Japanese Natl. Steel Orchestra. Excellent player.  The drummer from Modernaires came and drummed for us and he was great.

Except that in the excitement, no one had screwed down the drums so he had to play with a wobbling drum set with an unstable seat. Boy was he whizzed and after we got back on Tuesday night, he was having a tirade over the conditions under which he played. More bacchanal! But, we competed and made it back to the yard. Got home about 11:00, dead tired. Didn’t sleep well. Pan songs going in my head.

 If I have learned anything through this experience, it is that I have no control and no information, and cannot get any information, because they don’t have any either. So if I want to do this, I just go with the flow. It is good for me. It confronts my logic driven, control issues. No logic prevails. No control either.  
We laid low on Ash Wednesday and tried to get some more sleep and on Thursday morning, Billy, a band member who owns a  boat, shows up at our boat and says, get ready we are going out on his boat..  He has a 47 ft boat similar to ours – a catamaran. He had the Japanese girls, Ronald, Dougie and Mary, us and a couple of his friends and his wife, Judy. We went out to Chachacacari Island, close to Trinidad and had a good lunch, good swim and a good “lime” as the Trinis say. Then later that night, the band had a lime, with catered food. The Japanese girls made some great Hor’dourves and the Rib House catered the meal. The whole band was there and it was a nice ending to a very shaky season! Then on Sunday we had a Cruise on Makaru! Will this season ever end? We took nine band members and our friend, Peter out on the boat. We went to Palm Frawn Bay near Trinidad and had a nice lunch and came back and limed at the dock until 8:00 or so. Soo very tired on Monday and the rest of this week.

All in all it was a very crazy season with Harvard Harps. I think there were several things working. One is that due to two conflicts in the band, we had lost 2 major leaders/workers. Their leadership was missed. All in all it was a tough year and it remains to be seen, just like last year, how they will pick it up and keep going. I say “how” because I am sure they will keep it going! Trinidad is a very last minute society. Planning ahead is not even a goal, much less an objective or activity. Actually they are quite good at pulling off feats at the last minute, in fact, we got very good results from the judges.

In one competition we came in 2nd. Another we were 4th and another 5th. Coming in behind the big winning Panorama bands who have all the young hot shot teenagers on tenor and have a lot of money to pay good players, drummers, etc. So we felt very very good about our results.  It was fantastic. A bunch of old guys and some teenager drummers and a few young Japanese girls playing good music and having a great time.   That’s us!

Steelband Tales Pt. 4

Ruth and George Parsons have certainly had their adventures playing in Panorama. 

This latest installment is the first of a two part story. Hope you enjoy. We certainly did. 

March 5, 2009 
Hey, we survived another carnival in Trinidad and it was crazy and unpredictable and exhausting as usual!
Arrived in Trinidad about midnight New Year’s night. A friend picked us up from the airport whose old car doesn’t have a gas gage so he wasn’t sure how much gas he had. But all the stations were closed so it didn’t matter. Welcome to Trinidad. At least he had cleaned his car out so that our luggage fit. There were fire works on both sides of the highway celebrating the new year and he pretended it was a show set up for us and went down the highway, saying, “They’re here”.  Stayed at a bed and breakfast, arriving after 1:00 AM and Tammy, the owner, had left a key on the patio. We let ourselves in and went to bed. Welcome to Trinidad.
Cleaned and painted the boat, got it in the water, stocked it with food at Pricemart, and rested a few days waiting for our band, Harvard Harps, to begin practice.
Finally we began. New leadership and different players. Last year the band wound up in a big fight after Carnival and the leader quit. A committee took over the leadership and this past December another fight ensued and one of the committee members quit and several others sided with him and quit also. But there were others came back to the band because those two were gone! So we lost some and gained some. We lost our drummer so no drummer for practice, which made the practices very difficult. But we began the 3rd week of January and learned two songs for “the road” or songs we play as the trailer goes down the street on Jourvert morning and on Monday and Tuesday nights for pan competitions. (More of the story)

Friday, June 27, 2014

July Newsletter Just About Done

Just putting the final touches on the upcoming July Pan e-Newsletter. I think SPC members will be in for a treat. This month's Profiles in Pan were pretty enlightening.

One was on Tom Miller. a respected and internationally known pan artist. Tom teaches at the University of Denver and directs the school's steel drum orchestra. It was fascinating to read his story and how he met some of the bigger names in pan. It is a story of passion and perseverance.

We also interviewed George and Ruth Parsons. Their interview was the actual starting point for those Steelband Tales we posted. We will be publishing more in the coming weeks. They too had the same passion and perseverance. Maybe it is something inherent in playing steel pan.

Board member Don Prorak chipped in with a great piece on the importance of balance. - not just musically, but in life as well. I personally enjoyed that one.

All that is left is a little proofing. You can't always trust Spellcheck or your own eyes.

So we continue!!!


P.S. The newsletter is a member only benefit. Members have access to the full articles. So if you aren't a member yet, what are you waiting for?

Photo by Yuko S./Flickr

Friday, June 20, 2014

Some Random Thoughts to Close Out the Week

Here is a picture from the archives. It is a group of SPC members and members from Rocky Mountain Steel Bands. We were waiting to go on in a May drumming competition. We ended up placing third!!!

As for this week, it's been busy. We worked on articles for the monthly newsletters. Interesting Profiles in Pan coming up. We are pretty excited about those. We continue to tweak and work on improving the website so it is more effective. Our board met and talked about the Denver pan music event in 2015. We have a date, but no name yet. But we are working on it. Any suggestions? We also got all of the board pictures taken and up on the website. Board pictures. As more board members join, we'll get those up as well. 

It has certainly been fun. I am meeting new people in the pan community every day. And it's been great. I am becoming a big believer in this organization each and every day. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and valuable. We are so determined to make this a long-standing and effective organization.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Skip Waugh
The Steel Pan Collective

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Steelband Tales - Part 3

Here is the third installment of Steelband Tales. This time, George and Ruth are invited to play with local group the Harvard Harps. It would be a dream come true for most of us. Will it be for them? Read and find out.

I am sitting here on the deck of our catamaran, Makaru, with the sun beating down on me and the nice easterly breeze keeping me from being too hot and watching the sun playing on the water and I have to grin because crammed in my head and heart is our pan experience this year in Trinidad.  Carnival is over. We are very tired and drained. We have played pan literally night and day for 5 weeks. Have been home maybe 2 nights the whole 5 weeks. We have stiff shoulder and aching knees. But, I grin. Only in Trinidad would most of these things happen - period, and certainly happen to us. We feel filled up and we feel lucky.

Last year, George and found a band to play with, called Harvard Harps. It was a great find for us because it is a group of mostly older folks, like us, who play for fun at Carnival time and they have a truck, or old school bus chasse, which they play on during the Carnival parades. We joined with them last year, played and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We were looking forward to joining them again for this Carnival season, but when George came down here in December, he reported that sadly, the band had lost its base players, both of them, so no practicing, and some doubt as to whether we would play at all this season. In spite of the efforts of several members, they could not acquire a base player, so we were prepared for not being able to play this year. This was a very early Carnival date  and the date for the preliminaries for Panorama, the National Steel Band Competition, was Jan 7th.  So, too late for us to hope to get in a Panorama band.   (Read more...)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Surround Yourself With The Same Passion

Last night the board of directors had our monthly meeting. It was very productive meeting. We talked about the steel pan festival and also our membership strategies.

We have been puzzling about how to accurately reach out to groups. We thought a group membership was the way to go. But all it served to do was confused everyone. So we decided to wipe the slate clean.

We came up with a referral program that is pretty exciting. It is a win/win for everyone - us and the member.

Each SPC member will get $5 credited to their account when they refer someone for membership. That individual has to become a member of course to get the credit. But ultimately, a student can refer up to seven people and get enough credit to receive a year of free membership. The same goes for an individual. They can refer up to twelve people.

We are really excited about the new program. Read more

Surrounding yourself with creative people results in some serious out of the box thinking.


Skip Waugh
Steel Pan Collective

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Steelpan Tales - Part 2

Last week we shared an SPC member's experience playing steel pans in Trinidad.

This week, Ruth Parsons shares how playing on J'Ouvert Morning was a great experience.

Having participated in J’Ouvert many times during our extended stay in Trinidad, it has become my favorite part of Carnival. J'Ouvert is the true free up. Unencumbered by playing pretty, it is early while there is a lot of energy, J’Ouvert is for everyone and it is the opening up of the Carnival and is received with great anticipation. It is a good street party. My husband and I, aboard Makaru, have done J’Ouvert with Annette and Arnold of Trump Tours at their house and had a wonderful time; we have gone with Jesse to Trevor Wallace’s party. We have played in other J’Ouvert bands such a Red Ants and Blue Devils, but in 07 we saw J’Ouvert in its best light (and dark)- from a pan band truck while beating pan with a local band – the best!

My husband, George, and I were busily practicing for panorama competition with Ice Water’s Single Pan Band, and thinking that with the late start in learning the tune, we weren’t going to be able to learn it in time for panorama, when a friend of ours said to us, “You should play with Harvard Harps. They are a small band, and  not participate in Panorama. They play for fun and they go out J’Ouvert morning and Tuesday night on a truck”. That sounded very interesting to us – especially the fun part, after our struggle with a late start in learning a panorama tune. So, we timidly visited the Harvard Harps Pan yard, located at the Harvard Sports Club in St. James, to meet them and to ask politely if we might join their band for J’Ouvert. Well, here they are – a very interesting group of 12 or so people – many of them as old as we are- and that’s old- all colors, very friendly, very Trini. The first person we met in the yard was Ian. He looked us over and said to my husband “You’ll fit right in this band. You are old and you are bald”. We sat around and had drinks and got to know some of the band members, and said we’d be back the next day for practice. We learned the first night that these folks like to do two things: play good music and drink rum. Ah, we do fit in. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

How Do You Connect With Other Steel Pan Players?

Maybe that's a loaded question. The answer may be for some - "Well, I play in a group. I know a few folks." For others, it may be more in line with - "It's just me these days. Don't know any others in the area."

I was recently watching a video from this year's Panorama in Trinidad that a fellow performer gave me. I was struck with and reminded of how much of players' lives revolved around pan. For many, it was part of their social life, their family, and their community. It is a badge on honor and certain level of respect you get when playing in a steel pan group.

It is different compared to the U.S. In parts of the east coast, you still have that connection because members of the community come from Trinidad and the Caribbean.  But what about those of us born and bred in the U.S.? Can we foster that same kind of connection to the instrument we love so much? Can our busy lives and schedules fit it in? I say why not.

It is actually funny now that I think about it. There were a lot of doubters about why we started the Steel Pan Collective. We still hear from them - not as much these days though. We still think players want to connect with other players. That is the whole focus of our organization. Learn. Connect. Perform. Be player-focused.

I realize that some are content to go it alone or happy in their present steel pan situation. You may not need or want to be a part of our community. That's fine. But for some us, we want a little more out of our experience. We want that connection. We want to be a part of the bigger pan family. And we will put in as much as we hope to get out of that experience. That's the same feeling I saw in that Panorama video. It is a willingness to work a little harder at creating and fostering a pan community.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Steelpan Tales - Part 1.

Steel Pan Collective member Ruth Parsons recently uncovered a few articles she wrote during her time in Trinidad. Some cover Carnival, most cover steel pan playing in Trinidad. They are a fascinating read. If you ever wondered what it is like to play steel pan in Trinidad around Panorama time, these stories are for you.

Ruth and her husband George will also be profiled in the upcoming Pan e-Newsletter (June/July issue). (Be sure to sign up for your membership if you have not already. You don't want to miss the upcoming issue).

This week, we thought we would share one of her stories. Enjoy!!

It is the end of January, 06, and pigeon peas are in season and the smell of them cooking on the stove mixed with the smell of burnt brown sugar to begin the pelau is coming from the kitchen of the pan yard. It smells wonderful and I can’t wait until it is ready. I am starving. It is Saturday, a month before carnival and the message board in the yard says all day practice Sat and Sunday – lunch and refreshments served. In the upper part of Diego Martin, it is hazy and rainy and a little cool from the rain. The surrounding mountains are as green as mountains can get in this very rainy dry season. The pan yard sets up on the side of the mountain and looks out over the local sports field. A cricket match is going on in spite of the persisting light sprinkle. A few spectators are watching. The players are in their white long pants. In another part of the field, a soccer game is going on. A few guys are liming on the side of the street. Someone is cooking something on the corner in a big pot, probably corn soup. Lots of people talking, laughing, having fun, enjoying the  Saturday.

In the yard, Kendall Lewis, the arranger for Ice Water single pan band is teaching band members his arrangement of  “GoodTimes” by Denise Plumer. It is a wonderful and complicated arrangement. Some of the band members have it. Others are outside in the light drizzle with another member of the band, learning the song. They play the parts they have over and over, and then Kendall changes a part and they have to all learn anew. . One of the amazing things about the pan yard is how quickly the band members come in and pick up the song. Sometimes a few hours is all the time needed to learn a very complicated 8 minute song. Band members who range in age from 10-60 years learn the song by hearing the melody and by watching the hand movements. They learn very complicated movements in a very few minutes and are ready to go on and learn another set of complicated movements. They seem to hear it and therefore remember it.

Kendall Lewis has been playing with Merrytones for 30 years. Kendall, a retired policeman, has played in every panorama that has ever been held. He is the director of both Merrytones, a small band, and of Ice Water, a professional side band, which is entering the single pan band competition for the first time this year. He works for the Ministry of Education in the Pan in the Schools Program, and runs a pan school for kids. He loves his work; he loves teaching pan; he loves playing pan.