This PIE is not in the Sky
Written by Milla Cozart Riggio
Monday, 12 September 2011 00:00

PIE business modelDespite Trinidad’s undeniable Pan legacy to the world, a burning question has remained since the mid to late 1980s about who would ultimately reap the benefits for the continued development of Pan. Most of the actual degrees in Pan Studies are abroad (at places like Northern Illinois University, USA, where Liam Teague is on the faculty). And despite the continued role of Panland Trinidad and Tobago LTD (formerly Trinidad and Tobago Instruments LTD) and other more individual entrepreneurs, even Pan production is often located abroad. Nevertheless, Trinidad sustains its impregnable position both as the inventor of Pan and as the unique culture that best showcases the instrument. Sanch Electronix, under the direction of Simeon Sandiford, has established the world standard for recording Pan, an instrument that because of its acoustic nature has presented huge challenges for those who wish to record, as well as amplify, it. Even with these achievements and advantages, it remains to be asked how Trinidad can esta
lish its leadership in the multiple areas of Pan development, education, and distribution.

It is in this context that we must welcome – after eight years of development – the finally unveiled project known as PIE, or Pan in Education. Produced by Sandiford and engineer, composer and arranger Mark Loquan, PIE is a hybrid educational and marketing programme.

It is an indigenous ICT-derived innovative product, soon to be available on interactive CDs fully compatible with both PC and Mac operating systems. The double-CD set contains 13 music arrangements (disc 1) with scores, curriculum, a National Occupational Standard (NOS) for creating Music Producers, tasks, assignments, and associated material (disc 2) that work to educate students, not only in music literacy, but also in much broader areas of literacy and skill. The overall programme covers the areas of music, business, technical English, ICT, audio engineering and social studies. Each area provides a curriculum in itself. There are, for example, 40 curriculum modules presented in PowerPoint format to support the 44-unit NOS. The newly upgraded second CD provides backward linkages to an already existing, self-instructional interactive software developed by Sandiford and produced by Sanch Electronix, in which an animated instructor called Pete the Panstick (PETE) walks students through introductions to the Steelpan – replete with musical examples, scores, definitions and other aids – to a large number of musical genres, including of course Calypso and Soca. Much credit is due to Trinidadians Martin Haynes, who created the dual Mac/PC compatibility as well as the PIE interface and to animator Camille Selvon Abrahams who created PETE.

In addition to basic music instruction, one of the key features of PIE is the way it links music and business, an important bridge in a nation that sometimes does better at inventing than at developing and protecting its own interests. The Business of Music curriculum is divided into Music Literacy and Entrepreneurial Development. In keeping with the Trinidad base and electronic sophistication of PIE, the acoustic Steelpan and the Percussive Harmonic Instrument (PHI) are the preferred instruments for use in the Music Literacy component of the curriculum. While students are learning music, they are also honing the skills that enable them to sustain ownership of and develop the national musical instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. Following the Business of Music curriculum, they will learn and nurture the entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to play the Global Music Industry with a wide range of Caribbean rhythms. But the aim of this educational venture is broader than simply learning to understand and create music. The Technical English component of the curriculum has been developed specifically to improve English literacy across the board in all other curricular areas. And the business skills emphasized are also those that can be used in many different contexts and situations, not just the development of Pan. In this sense, while PIE is training students particularly in music education and marketing, it is also offering them skills that are transferable to other areas of interest.

Even in their anticipatory stage, PETE and PIE have received not only recognition but some initial funding support by grants from the Centre for Development of Enterprise (CDE), the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA), Trinidad and Tobago Film Company, and the Ministry of Trade. Endorsements have come from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union (EU), The University of the West Indies (UWI), The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), Inter American Development Bank (IDB), the Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSEC), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

–Milla Cozart Riggio is James J. Goodwin Professor of English, Coordinator, Trinity-in-Trinidad Global Learning Site. This is an edited excerpt of her review of PIE; the full text can be read here.