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.