Saturday July 1st: In or Out
July 1, 2023
Sunday July 2nd: A higher order
July 2, 2023

“School in Pan” helped build community: POS primary schools shine

The School in Pan programme was a timely intervention during the Covid-19 pandemic as it brought children out of fear, vulnerability, and social isolation.

This was disclosed by the Principal of Nelson St Girls’ RC Lisa Hinds-Lynch as she delivered the thanks at the ‘School in Pan showcase, Excellence through Steelpan Education’ at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) on Thursday, July 29.

Her school and the Nelson St Boys’ RC were chosen in 2019 for a pilot of the programme which is a collaboration between the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM), and Massy All Stars.

Hinds-Lynch said: “In the midst of the pandemic in the very beginning, through this programme our children were able to move from anxiety to self-actualisation, from isolation to independence and from regret to resilience.”

She thanked Dr Roland Baptiste, research officer, CEBM and its former Chairman, for conceiving the programme and allowing the children of south east Port of Spain and Laventille to discover their hidden passion and talent through music education. It was expanded to include Our Lady of Laventille (OLL) RC, Rose Hill RC, Bethlehem Boys’ RC, and Bethlehem Girls’ RC.

Chair of the Trinidad All Stars Academy Dr Mia Gormandy-Benjamin developed the curriculum. Over the academic year, pupils learned music theory, sight reading, ear training, instrument knowledge, music appreciation and scales. “They were all able to accomplish these things. This event brings together all they have learnt in the form of a performance,” Gormandy-Benjamin said.

She added that the training encompassed learning about history and culture. The programme “also involved development in discipline, teamwork, self-confidence and in general, becoming better citizens of Trinidad and Tobago”.

Pan instructor pleased

“I feel like a proud mom!” pan instructor Natasha Joseph said after seeing her pupils execute performances on stage.

Joseph, the drill master for the Hadco Phase II Pan Groove along with Kygel Benjamin, Musical Director of the Trinidad All Stars Youth Steel Orchestra and member of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra tutored the children.

“I feel elated…we only had a little over five-six weeks to really learn the pieces that they performed,” Joseph told The Catholic News. There was also a display in the NAPA auditorium of nine pan pioneers which the students researched as part of their training among them Daisy Mc Clean, Ellie Mannette, Jit Samaroo and Pat Bishop. McClean is a past pupil of Rose Hill and the children of the school did research on her.

The inclusion of percussion instruments in lieu of pans for OLL performance of ‘When the Saints go Marching In’ and Rose Hill’s remix of the popular children’s song ‘Baby Shark’ was well-received by the audience earning added cheers from their peers and parents in attendance.

“We did not want to leave out any student in performance; rhythm is a part of music so the students who were not on pan, played percussion and we had a little tamboo bamboo section…it is history.”

Painted PVC was used in place of actual bamboo which Joseph said was fragile. “I had to give them a little history about how tamboo bamboo came into steel pan,” Joseph said.

Building confidence and changing stereotypes

The School in Pan programme is the brainchild of Dr Baptiste. He was pleased with the students’ performance stating one of the aims of the programme was to give self-confidence to the children of these Port of Spain schools.

“This is the beginning; I don’t want anyone to forget the main objective, to me, is self-esteem…” he said. Dr Baptiste mentioned the continuous negative commentary of communities and children presented in media reports. “My objective here is for them to develop their self-esteem and as you can see, they have plenty self-esteem to go around in this room.”

Dr Baptiste noted that the children were the descendants of the persons who created pan and Massy All Stars, Desperados Steel Orchestra and bp Renegades were located in proximity to the schools.

He contacted All Stars and the band agreed to collaborate with the CEBM on the School in Pan programme. It was inspired by the late educator and economist Dr Lloyd Best who wrote about the potential of pan and said, “we need to put schools in pan not pan in schools”.

Catholic values in action

CEBM CEO Sharon Mangroo said, “We cannot teach children about God without teaching them about love.”

She touched on the development of the pan instrument and how School in Pan helped build community with the Trinidad All Stars, schools, parents, teachers, tutors, and CEBM working together.

“We see a programme that is teaching Catholic values by doing,” Mangroo said. It was exemplified as the children draw on the beauty in themselves and expressing it through music. “This will go with you for the rest of your lives,” Mangroo said.

In remarks, Minister in the Education Ministry, Lisa Morris-Julian said the pan showcase was not just a celebration of music. It was a celebration of the children and gave testimony to the power of teamwork, discipline “and embracing your own unique rhythm”.

She encouraged the children that each note they played will bring joy to the audience and contributes to the rich cultural tapestry of the nation. “Don’t worry if you hit a wrong note or two consider it a musical experiment,” Morris-Julian said. Certificates were presented to cohorts of participants from 2022 and 2023.

Songs performed:

· ‘Temple Bells’ – Bethlehem Boys’ RC, arranged by Natasha Joseph

· ‘When you wish upon a star’- Bethlehem Girls’ RC arranged by Kygel Benjamin

· ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ – Nelson Street Boys’ RC, arranged Kygel Benjamin

· ‘Sing’ and ‘You are my sunshine’ – Nelson St Boys’ RC, arranger Kygel Benjamin

· ‘Aura Lee’ and ‘Surprise Symphony’ – Nelson St Girls’ RC, arranged by Natasha Joseph

· ‘When the Saints go Marching In’- Our Lady of Laventille RC arranged by Kygel Benjamin ‘Baby Shark (Remix) – Rose Hill RC, arranged by Natasha Joseph.