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Pan project for East Port of Spain RC schools

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

A pan project will be implemented during the 2021-2022 academic year at the Bethlehem Boys’ RC and Bethlehem Girls’ RC, and the Nelson Street Boys’ RC and Nelson Street Girls’ RC Primary schools.

It is a collaboration between the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) and the Duke Street- based Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra (TASSO).

Sharon Mangroo, Chief Executive Officer of the CEBM said the project was inspired by the experience of the former Principal of Tabaquite RC Primary, Ann Bahadoorsingh.

She used the community involvement in agriculture as a centre of interest for teaching and learning. “Student engagement increased, and their overall performance was enhanced,” Mangroo said.

Former Chairman of the CEBM, Dr Roland Baptiste thought a similar project would benefit the Nelson Street schools. Mangroo said the Lloyd Best pan in school concept was discussed.

Best, an academic and economist wrote ‘The Best Plan for Pan’ February 12, 1995, in the Sunday Express, a series of articles followed. Mangroo said, “We put the ideas together and approached them with the hybrid. They developed it from there”.

TASSO Public Relations Officer Staci-Ann Patrick said, “A primary goal of the project is to build a higher appreciation in our pre- secondary school children for our national instrument from a theoretical and practical aspect. Additionally, the understanding of the history of the steelpan and its predecessors is critical to the development of our culture.”

Dr Mia Gormandy-Benjamin

Dr Mia Gormandy-Benjamin, Assistant Professor – Music, University of Trinidad and Tobago, designed the curriculum and will supervise the tutors.

Patrick said the principals have bought into the programme and their support is “positive and visible”.

The CEBM, TASSO and Dr Gormandy-Benjamin have been “unfailing” in their enthusiasm. Patrick and TASSO Manager Nigel Williams will represent the steel orchestra. Dane Gulston, the band’s Community Relations Manager will lend support as the programme starts to evolve.

“For the initial semester we will have the instruments and other physical resources.  However, going forward we will need additional instruments, pan sticks and other percussive instruments. As the instruments are used more frequently, we will also need the skills of a tuner” Patrick said.

The programme is projected to begin in the fifth week of the start of the first term, in September 2021 and will be tied into the academic year which has three terms. There are logistics to be worked out as face-to-face would be necessary.

Staci-Ann Patrick

Patrick said to deliver the programme fully online would be challenging. “It will not at all be easy for children, especially children who are now learning to get the touch and feel aspect of it, and instruments won’t be available to them. They can do the theory part, they can certainly start learning how to read music, the history.”

Patrick said pan is often referred to as a “side” activity or a way to get children, particularly in impoverished communities, to stay away from crime.  She added, “steelpan and the evolution of pan is critical to understanding the history of Trinidad and Tobago”.

Principal of Bethlehem Girls’ RC, Ann Marie Pierre said, “I am happy the East Port of Spain is getting that opportunity to participate in a pan programme so I can see it helping with discipline and with the VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) programme that the Ministry introduced, and academically.” The school has a pan instructor and placed fifth in the 2020 Junior Panorama finals with Bethlehem Boys’ RC.

Pierre saw first-hand the positive impact of pan with her daughter Arielle, who did dance, piano, and pan at primary school. It helped with discipline and studies, especially in Mathematics, “because you have to count the beats and different things”. Arielle took the pan to Ireland where she studied Medicine after earning an open scholarship.

Pierre saw the programme as “a stepping stone for greater things” for her students.