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PS 149 Danny Kaye School
on the Steelband Trail

Next Generation of Pan Players travel to MIT with Pantonic

Massachusetts - Eight lucky students from Brooklyn's PS 149 Danny Kaye school recently indulged in an extra-curricular activity that was right up their alley. The youngsters joined the stage side of championship steel orchestra Pantonic on their trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts for the group's third performance during MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 2007 Campus Preview Weekend.

PS 149 Danny Kaye School and Pantonic at MIT

The genesis of the school's steelband program came back in the late nineties when they were one of five fortunate educational institutions chosen to participate in a New York Board of Education initiative called 'Project Arts.' They received a 'starter' steelband set consisting of two tenors, one guitar, and one six-bass.  In their second year, the band 'doubled' in capacity when they acquired two more tenors, one tenor bass, an additional guitar and one double tenor.  Today the school boasts eighteen boys and girls who make up its steelband program, but with instruments for twelve players at any one time.

Ms. Marcia Eversley captures memento of trip to MIT and Pantonic's performance, with Ryan Goulbourne standing beside her.

Accompanying the young players on the trip to Cambridge was PS 149's Arts Coordinator Ms. Marcia Eversley, who had been very pleased when the school was included in Project Arts.  The educator is extremely proud of the students' accomplishments, and spoke about the synergy between their learning to master the steelpan, and their academic performance. She emphasized the discipline, development and responsibility which were key in the children's steel orchestra instruction, and which were in turn put into practice in their academic lives. Given the challenge to afford and procure additional instruments to bolster the band, Ms. Eversley fondly recalled the unforeseen opportunity that presented itself to add one to the school's meager complement.  On a trip to Barbados in the Caribbean, the Arts Coordinator was visiting with a friend who just happened to have a double second 'lying  around the house,' essentially unused.  She was thrilled when told she could bring it back for use at the school.

The trip to MIT with Pantonic's stage side was a special time to connect with experienced musicians who had honed their craft over the years, many who had begun as steelband players - young, or younger than, some of the students.  During Pantonic's performance, the PS 149 students stayed close to the area, soaking up and reveling in the music, in much the same way as the students and adults stopping in front of MIT's Student Activities Center where the event was unfolding. Alternately sitting in front, and dancing on the sidelines, the youngsters lapped up the ninety-minute total show served up by Pantonic, registering their delight especially when they heard R&B artist Beyonce's hit song "Irreplaceable." { click to see video performance on YouTube }

During the return trip they excitedly went over their experiences, and shared some thoughts on the day with When Steel Talks.  Shaela Reyes, 10, and Ryan Goulbourne, 12 are both in fifth grade. Shaela, a tenor player has been playing for two years, while Ryan, who is mastering both the six and tenor bass, is in his third year.  Both liked Pantonic's repertoire and the number of songs they recognized, especially the more popular ones such as "Irreplaceable" and John Legend's "Ordinary People," and were amazed by the 'tempo' the stage side played at.  At their school, they have been playing at moderate pace on their journey to mastering their instruments. 

Shaela's nine-year old cousin Isis Gaddy, who has two years under her belt on the tenor, says that she was "inspired to play even better" after hearing Pantonic's stage side.  Double tenor player Shemani Patton, also nine, was 'amazed' that Pantonic was playing, 'without always looking at the pans.'  Her fellow double-tenor pannist and fourth grader Patrice Mitchell (pictured left) appreciated how Pantonic "really got into the music."  Rieanna Duncan (pictured below right) who will be eight next month and prefers the guitar pan, loved how 'tight' the band sounded, while Kristina Thomas who opts for the double second and is in third grade, declared that she, too, liked the tempo of the songs, and was happy when she realized she knew most of the music performed.  Finally she declared that "today was the best day of the week!"  Friday was still a regular school day for the students, and while these were learning via their experiences and observations of a veteran steel orchestra stage side in action, their school mates were at school.  Diminutive but aspiring drummer eight-year old Kyonne Springer rounded out the crew, and even took a brief turn at the drums during Pantonic's break.

For the young members of PS 149's steelband it was an inspiring and wonder-filled day. The group practices for two hours once per week, and performs at their school twice during the year.  In May, their parents and the school are treated to the fruits of their hard work, and they are also in the spotlight again in June.  Last February, there was another first for the budding steelband musicians - they 'played out' for the first time at a tea party and reveled in the attention that was showered on them after the event.

More On Pantonic at MIT

Contact Pantonic at: 1-718-434-0231
web: www.Pantonic.com | email: pantonic1@aol.com

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