Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

 

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Laéticia Walker - New York/Saint Vincent

“Steel pan has become a part of who I am. The sound is my heart beat, it is something I will never attempt to try and live without.” 

She is an intellect whose ultimate destination is medical school. However, what is abundantly clear is that along that journey Pan and the music of  the steel orchestra will  be constant companions.  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - panist Laéticia Walker shares her feelings, experiences, and love for the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Laéticia Walker?”

Laéticia W. - “Laéticia Walker is a 20-year-old, born and raised Vincentian who takes her culture with her where ever she goes. She is a student, a daughter, a best friend, a sister, and so much more to many people. In all the roles she plays, she puts in 110%. She is reliable and is always ready to help when asked. Laéticia Walker’s ambition, dedication, and love toward steel pan cannot be matched. When she plays, you can see it in her face, that she is in her element and nothing can distract her from the music.”


WST - “How and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Laéticia W. - “I first became involved in pan while attending school in Saint Vincent. I stopped playing pan for a while during my transition from Saint Vincent to Brooklyn, then I became involved with the St. Augustine Pan-A-Praise Steel Orchestra.”


WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument and art form going?”

Laéticia W. - “Steel pan has a unique sound, a vibe, a tone, and an energy that cannot be expressed with any other instrument. It is a challenging instrument to understand and learn to play, and the level of challenge never decreases as you become more familiar. I am always being pushed to do better and be better when it comes to steel pan. Steel pan has become a part of who I am. The sound is my heart beat, it is something I will never attempt to try and live without.”

Laéticia Walker
Laéticia Walker

WST - “What do family and friends think of your involvement in Pan?”

Laéticia W. - “My family is very supportive of my involvement with steel pan. My mother is actually the one who encouraged me to play steel pan. Coming to Brooklyn, I didn’t think I would be able to continue to play. But I found a home at St. Augustine’s Pan-A-Praise Steel Orchestra and my friends there have become family, so of course they are supportive of my involvement in steel pan.”


WST - “Being female, were you ever cautioned or perhaps dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved in the steel-band art form?”

Laéticia W. - “I have never been cautioned in any way for being involved in steelpan, but as a female pan player, I get compliments about how wonderful it is to see a female play pan. When people find out that I have arranged a few songs I also hear wonderful words of encouragement, laced with comments about how rare female arrangers are. There have been comments that helped me understand that I, as a female who plays pan, am a rarity, and it makes me proud.”


Laéticia Walker
Laéticia Walker

WST - “What are your feelings about the annual Panorama competition in general?”

Laéticia W. - “To me the annual Panorama competition is like a big concert where everyone is full of positive vibes and is just there to have fun and enjoy listening and playing the instrument they love.”


WST - “Do you think the steelband community and its musicians are generally well-regarded/respected?”

Laéticia W. - “I think steelband and musicians are somewhat respected in our community.”


WST - “CASYM and CrossFire are two New York steel orchestras you've performed with. Share some of your experiences while being involved with these two organizations.”

Laéticia W. - “My only involvement with these organizations was during the Panorama seasons of 2016 and 2017. My experience playing with these bands was very pleasing; I had the opportunity of playing arrangements by Kendall Williams. Practicing the same song with the same people for weeks, who all have the same desire to win Panorama results in positive energy throughout most of the season.”

WST - “What are those eight/ten minutes like on stage for you, performing in Panorama - how do you feel?”

Laéticia W. - “During the eight-ten minutes on stage I am a different person, I feel like I am in a whole different zone. No matter what stage I am on, it’s like everything else that was going on around me has disappeared.”


WST - “What is your opinion on the overall state of Pan in New York?”

Laéticia W. - “When I moved to New York in 2015, I thought pan was non-existent but I was wrong. Steel pan in New York is more developed than I thought it was, but I still think there is a lack of support for the bands especially during Panorama season.”


WST - “Some people are still vague about the steelpan instrument, what it is, and even more so, the concept of a full-size Panorama orchestra. Are there still times you encounter co-workers or friends, people in general - to whom you have to explain the steel band art form?”

Laéticia W. - “Steel pan is an instrument that is not known to many and when I tell people that it is my instrument of choice, they always have questions. I would often have to explain what the instrument is to my classmates and co-workers. I always end up showing them pictures and videos of the instrument as well as I explain the structure of the instrument and the different types.”


WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Laéticia W. - “I am extremely proud of the pan player I have grown to be. I would like to say that it wasn’t easy to get here but that would be a lie. It was easy to nurture my steel pan skills because I love what I do.”


WST - “What disappoints you most in the steelpan movement?”

Laéticia W. - “The lack of exposure the instrument has to the general public.”

Laéticia Walker
Laéticia Walker

WST - “Who, and what are your musical influences?”

Laéticia W. - “This question had me thinking for a long time, I must say that my musical influence stems from ‘ole school’ soca such as Beckett, the Mighty Sparrow and Winston Soso. This is mostly because growing up, my mother would blast this type of music from these artists in the house.”


WST - “Do you favor any particular genre of music to perform on pan?”

Laéticia W. - “No I do not favor a particular genre when it comes to pan. Playing different genres on pan shows the diversity in which the instrument can portrait.”


WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Laéticia W. - “Panorama is definitely a blessing, it is where arrangers and players have the opportunity to showcase a story through a song.”


WST - “What is your vision for the steelpan instrument?”

Laéticia W. - “My vision is for steelpan to be recognized more, and possibly introduced in more schools.”


WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why?”

Laéticia W. - “It is difficult to choose any one person as my favorite arranger because there are a few arrangers whose arranging styles I admire. For example, Damany James, Brandon Modeste and Matthew Best. I admire Damany’s teaching style as well as his interpretation of the songs he arranges. I admire Brandon because of how humble he is when he is arranging and how passionate he gets when it comes to music. Lastly, Matthew’s arrangements tend to have a groovy feel to it which makes it ‘sweet’.”

Laéticia Walker with CASYM Steel Orchestra
Laéticia Walker

WST - “After playing Pan for some time, several young adults eventually cease playing. Do you have any plans in this regard?”

Laéticia W. - “Steel pan keeps me going, it acts like an outlet, it takes my mind off everything else like school and work. Playing pan allows me to be free, and personally I do not think I can imagine my life without steel pan.”


WST - “What would be your advice to young female players all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Laéticia W. - “I would advise young female pan players to stay dedicated, don’t ever be discouraged; I know it seems hard at times but the prize is worth the pain.”


WST - “What is next for Ms. Laéticia Walker?”

Laéticia W. - “I am always on the move and I always try to keep myself busy, but other than family, steel pan is a constant in my life. There won’t be a day when the music it creates isn’t on my mind. So what is next for Laéticia? Laéticia is going to graduate college, and begin applying to medical school. She is going to enjoy her family’s company and support through all her endeavors. But most importantly she is going to continue to play steel pan with the family she has made at St. Augustine’s. She has some songs she plans on arranging and is determined to enhance her arranging skills. Laéticia Walker never stops thinking about the future and is excited to see where it will lead her. But she is sure her future is bright because she keeps a smile on her face, keeps her family close, and keeps the music in her heart alive through steel pan.”


3 photos provided by L. Walker

   Laéticia Walker performs with CASYM Steel Orchestra during the orchestra’s 2017 Basement Recordings panyard session




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