Helena Allum Review
Friday, 22 July 2011 02:14

Launch of Pan In Education CD
by Helena Allum


Dr Pat Bishop encouraged the audience at the Queen’s Hall to “go wherever you have influence and talk about it. It is very important that the ordinary Trinidadian and Tobagonian get to know about this project. It has to be people-driven, people-supported.” She was talking about the Pan In Education project, a dual compact disc that can be used as a teaching tool in our music education programme in schools. But it is much more than a teaching tool. It is seen as a master plan for educational development of the steelpan, even to establishing the steelpan as a mainstream instrument on the world stage.

At the early morning launch on Tuesday, October 11, Dr Bishop saluted project partners Mark Loquan, composer of the music for all thirteen pieces on the album, and Simeon Sandiford, Managing Director of Sanch Electronics who engineered twelve of the recordings.

“When the historians of the future come to consider the history, not only of pan but of thought in this country, this morning is going to be marked,” she said. “It must be marked because it connects with those fragments of the past, which are so poignantly expressed by the pan, the people in the pan, the idea of an indigenous technology however fragile. It connects a combination of Trinidadian things with where the future seems to be and that is the computer.”

Something from which to grow

While the computer represents something that we have bought rather than something we have invented, she said, “the fact that at the moment we are still net consumers of that technology doesn’t mean that at some point we are not ourselves going to be innovators; and then the link will be clear.” She sees the project as establishing a benchmark, “giving us something from which to grow, something to modify.”

The first compact disc contains recordings on location, by various steel orchestras. Of the thirteen recordings, one is by “Steelpan Lovers” an orchestra from Finland. The other orchestras recorded on the CD are: Samaroo Jets, Excellent Stores Silver Stars, UWI Steel Ensemble, BP Renegades Youth, Sagicor Exodus, Tropical Angel Harps, CSF Pantasy, TCL Skiffle Bunch, Courts Sound Specialists, Lydians Steel Ensemble, St Augustine Girls’ High School and our National Steel Orchestra.

The recordings were done during the period June 2003 and August 2004. After the recordings were done, the next year was spent finalising the musical scores and building and testing the interactive links for the second CD. The latter contains digital files about the thirteen recordings. For each recording there is information on:

The arranger, the writer and the performing band


The level of difficulty in which the piece is categorised and

  • explanation of each level
  • The learning outcomes for the music student
  • Connection to other arts and subject areas of the curriculum eg drama, social studies, dance, visual arts, language arts, literature
  • Clips of the original song as MP3 files
  • Full scores in three different formats: Finale music Program, PDF and MIDI
  • Instrumental extracts of various sections of the steel orchestra which can be played at different speeds eg you can listen to the tenor or guitar or cellos etc
  • The lyrics of each song

There are also:

  • Notes on Caribbean and Latin Rhythms
  • Information and illustration of the Symphonic Soundstage
  • Global Linkages

The student of steelpan arranging also has a variety of arranging styles to listen to. All together some 400 pannists, arrangers, transcribers, proof-editors, mastering and sound-recording engineers were involved in the project. Satanand Sharma, lecturer in Musical Arts at the University of the West Indies, proof-edited the music scores, categorised the arrangements according to levels of difficulty and proposed a comparison between the ranges of instruments of the classical symphony orchestra and those of a steel orchestra.

He told the audience: “The aesthetic education of the secondary school student depends on the creativity of the teacher to expand on the suggestions (given on the second disc). Once our educators understand this paradigm the possibilities for teaching become limitless. It is up to us involved with teacher training and up to the Ministry of Education to provide our teachers with the necessary skills to access this material. We need the computer, steelband instruments, pan rooms, school auditorium, all of which are part of the Secondary Education Modernisation Programme (SEMP)”

Dr Bishop also saluted Satanand Sharma and said she was absolutely moved when he spoke about the possible linkages between the curricula. Although she has her reservations about whether they will take place she insisted that they should happen but that we should “leave the conventional leaders out of this discourse. They really can’t help us”

She likened the project to the principle of the mustard seed, reminding us that out of very small beginnings great trees can grow. “I think this is a mustard seed that we can all take our part and tend.” She ended by quoting Ecclesiasticus: 44: 1 “Now let us praise famous men, and our brothers who are with us.” She encouraged those involved in the project not to be discouraged, but to go forth and not let anybody by their apathy, by their lack of support deter them from their original goal. “We have a whole country to make. The remnants of a country to save. We must do the work.”

Congratulations to Mark Loquan and Simeon Sandiford of Sanch Electronix for this teaching /learning tool in music education and the possibilities it offers for the further development