Men in Steel

Meet Wayne Bernard - Manager, Administrator, Panist

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks Men In Steel series icon

“I do not believe there is a challenge that would be difficult for this generation because it is some of the same people who have grown up in steelpan during the same tough and challenging times. With that being said, this generation has a creative and open-minded way to make anything possible, and I believe we are in good hands moving forward.” –– Wayne Bernard

The accepted norm is that “Nice guys finish last.” But not always. There is a chance that might change in this specific instance. When Steel Talks has keenly watched the growth and development of Wayne Bernard from youngster to adult. He is humble, selfless, thoughtful, compassionate, highly intelligent and committed to the forward progress of the steelband artform and culture.

In a When Steel Talks exclusive - manager, performing artist, administrator, and panist Wayne Bernard - shares his steelband experiences and vision for Pan.

WST - “Tell us about Wayne Bernard?”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

Wayne B. - “Born in Brooklyn, New York, my experiences in the world of Steel Pan started at a very young age, and have continued to build a life and legacy that have, and will continue to, impact generations of Panists to come. With playing experience that spans over 25 years, I have worked with many Steel Orchestras that represent the foundation of the culture such as CASYM, Harmony, Metro - and Pantonic Steel Orchestra where I spent 5 years at the helm as Captain.

“Working with these bands has allowed me to experience many notable performances such as, NY World Music Festival, International Conference and Panorama (ICP) in Trinidad and Tobago, and two tours to Africa to perform in Visa for Music and MASA World Music Festivals. In 2015, myself along with a few others decided to take a major step in the steelband community by starting a steelband organization. Despite my dedication to the steelpan artform, I have also been able to achieve my Associates Degree in Computer Science, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems from New York City College of Technology. As it stands, I am a founding member of Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra (PESO) and treasurer of Brooklyn Steel Orchestra (BSO).”

WST - “When and how did you first become aware of the steelpan instrument?”

Wayne B. - “Through my sister playing with CASYM. At first, it was something that I never really had an interest in or even had a passion to do but it just took that one time watching them perform at Borokeete Mas Camp. From there my fuse was lit, and the rest is history.”

WST - “You are currently the President and founder of Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra. It takes a very, very special and resilient person to run a steel orchestra in Brooklyn. Many dream about it. Many more talk about it. And many have tried and have failed. What is it that has made you and your music organization so successful, so quickly?”

Wayne B. - “The teamwork. The fact of having people to assist and lend a hand to make things work no matter what it is, or how big or small - makes things possible and easier. No one man can accomplish as much as a committed team working together.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “You are a veteran panist, administrator, educator and an entrepreneur. Do you have a role that you prefer?”

Wayne B. - “No I do not. I just play the part according to the situation if/when needed for me to do so. I have no problem with being a team player.”

WST - “Part of the job description to be a successful manager of a Brooklyn orchestra calls for you to be a philosopher, psychiatrist, disciplinarian, therapist, and, of course as the late great Glenda Gamory often said “cook and bottle washer.” How have you acquired and successfully applied these skills, and moreover, kept it together, meeting challenges as they arise?”

Wayne B. - “It starts with the willingness to always take in what people say to you even if in the particular moment it may not make sense. You never know when that advice or words of wisdom could come into play. As well as having a great group of people around me and in my corner is key for me to keep it together. At times I may fail and other times I succeed, but I will always apply the lessons and knowledge shared with me when I was younger, to help guide and support those around me.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “What keeps your passion for the steelband culture going?”

Wayne B. - “It would have to be the players, committee members, and supporters; they motivate me and inspire me to keep going and fuel me year in and year out. When I could sit back and see the younger ones getting more and more involved now, I love it.”

WST - “Discuss your entrepreneurial endeavor, which is relative to the steelband art form.”

Wayne B. - “To not only have a band, but a well-respected organization structured like a business that can be self-sufficient in terms of funding. Different areas aside from the steel orchestra itself where the organization can function, market, and brand itself in which the overall goal would be to compensate the members for their time and efforts.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “From your years of experience, what do you know now that you wish you knew years ago?”

Wayne B. - “I honestly wish I knew how the demographic of Brooklyn would have transformed over the years, making it roughly impossible to find a rehearsal space.”

WST - “What is it that makes Pan Evolution so different from all the steelband franchises in New York?”

Wayne B. - “It would be the individuals who come together to make the collective. The fact that there is really no one/single driving force behind Pan Evolution, coupled with the willingness to want to try new and different approaches away from the norm. Everyone plays a role, does it well, and it is appreciated. (Together As One).”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “Have you always had the support of family and friends, initially, and through the years re: your love for the steelband art form?”

Wayne B. - “Yes, I always had the support. From Day One to this very day - they have supported me, encouraged me, motivated me and never ever waived. For that I am forever grateful.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “What keeps that passion for the instrument and music going?”

Wayne B. - “It would have to be the younger generation of panists. To see their passion, commitment, and love motivates me as well to keep going.”

WST - “As a veteran in pan, what is your advice for, young people interested in joining a pan organization like Pan Evolution for the first time?”

Wayne B. - “If you see it and you like it give it a shot, and if you have a deep passion for it, pursue it and let no one deter you from what your heart desires to do.”

Wayne Bernard (right)
Wayne Bernard (right)

WST - “What are the greatest challenges facing Pan in New York?”

Wayne B. - “For me it would have to be the lack of rehearsal space. With the many changes happening in New York and especially in Brooklyn, both indoor and outdoor space to rehearse every year is proving to be more difficult.”

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

Wayne B. - “Both Jit [Samaroo] and [Clive] Bradley are my personal favorites. With Jit, growing up I would always be fascinated by how he was able to make the middle pans ‘talk’ during his Panorama arrangements just like a conversation. With Bradley it was amazing to see how his music could relate to different age ranges - from the young to the old it touched everyone. Truly two musical geniuses in their own right.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “What is your favorite Pan piece?”

Wayne B. - “‘Iron Man’ by Renegades, arranged by the late great Dr. Jit Samaroo.”

WST - “Do you prefer any specific genre of music on Pan?”

Wayne B. - “I actually have two - which are reggae and Pop.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “When you are not listening to pan music, what are you listening to?”

Wayne B. - “Anything. I am open to music on a whole so on any given day it could be Pop, Reggae, R&B, Soca, or even Jazz.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelpan musicians from both a management, and player perspective, respectively?”

Wayne B. - “I do not believe there is a challenge that would be difficult for this generation because it is some of the same people who have grown up in steelpan during the same tough and challenging times. With that being said, this generation has a creative and open-minded way to make anything possible, and I believe we are in good hands moving forward.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “As a player, do you think there is a conflict of interest where a single organization represents both the bands [overall management], and players, in New York Pan?”

Wayne B. - “I do not believe it is a conflict of interest, but with that being said, the correct mindset surely needs to be in place. Everyone has to be on the same page at the same time, as well as having strong communication with all those involved. If proper guidelines are implemented and followed, anything can operate appropriately.”

WST - “How do you feel about players performing with more than one band for the New York Panorama season?”

Wayne B. - “I honestly understand it. The Pan Community in New York over the years has decreased, for many reasons, of course. Players year after year try to keep this great art form in NYC going, by showing their love and support as best as they can playing for several bands with many sleepless nights, just to showcase their talents and enjoy themselves on stage on that one night. That type of passion and dedication, to do it for the love year in and year out, to keep Pan going - I CAN RESPECT.”

Wayne Bernard at practice for the 2015 ICP
Wayne Bernard at practice for the 2015 ICP

WST - “In 2015 you participated in the International Panorama (ICP) as a member of Brooklyn Steel Orchestra (BSO). Talk about that musical journey and experience?”

Wayne B. - “(ICP) with BSO was an honor for me to take part in, from the planning stages of mapping out how the group would practice with players from several different bands - during the height of New York Panorama - to funding which would help us get to Trinidad and provide for the players during the stay. When down there [Trinidad], the road was not much easier but the willingness and relentless efforts of the committee, arrangers, drillers, players, and even the host band Skiffle, were tremendous. All in all the hard work really paid off.”

WST - “What is your most memorable experience in Pan?”

Wayne B. - “My most memorable experience in pan would have to be 2016, the first year for PESO [Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra] - it was amazing. The love and support from the players and the New York Pan Community were very humbling. To see something that was planned from day one, to the last day on the Museum stage was gratifying, and I would never ever forget that.”

WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately, what would that be?”

Wayne B. - “It would definitely be the lack of support pan gets in New York. Pan plays such a major role in the community for the young men and young women in the city, and the fact [that] bands have to fight and beg just for simple things is disheartening and surely an uphill battle.”

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

Wayne B. - “As it relates to Pan, what makes me proud is seeing the younger generation taking on a leading role - whether as an arranger, tuner or builder, full-time musician, or management. It is a ‘must’ to get more involved as well as passing on the knowledge, sharing what we know and what we learned. This will only help with the progression of the art form overall.”

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

Wayne B. - “The fact that from then to now things have barely changed much or even for the better. A lot of things are the exact same way today as they were when I was younger.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Wayne B. - “Panorama is that moment when the long sleepless nights, the planning, the organizing, and all-out preparations finally come full circle. You get to showcase what you have worked hard on for the carnival season. When it is all said and done, to see your blood, sweat and tears on that stage is a great accomplishment.”

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

Wayne B. - “From my perspective Panorama is a blessing in which relationships and bonds have formed, opportunities were given and legacies started. Panorama has given so much for so many that it cannot be viewed any other way than a blessing.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

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

Wayne B. - “My vision for the steel pan instrument is for it to get the recognition that it deserves on the international stage. The instrument is special and unique in its own right, but yet you still find a lot of people know very little or nothing at all about it.”

WST - “With the recent changes and unexpected loss of people in the ‘elder’ leadership in the New York pan community, are you confident that the next generation of Pan players are ready to meet the task of leadership?”

Wayne B. - “Yes. But first and foremost, I am thankful to those that paved the way for us in New York and brought the pan community to the forefront of where it is now. I feel like the next generation ‘been ready.’ The only question that remained was when would the opportunity have presented itself. From what I see, the generation has many multitalented and versatile thinkers, movers, and shakers that understand the times, demographics, and present culture. This generation from what I have seen over several years, is ready to take the baton and run like the wind.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard (right)

WST - “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented and unforeseen challenges and changes to the New York steelband performance arena. Can you see the bands successfully navigating this unforeseen ‘roadblock’ (obstacle)?”

Wayne B. - “Of course. The best thing about the [Pan] community is the determination and drive to make things happen. As it stands right now, there are bands that are active, and things moving along despite the current situation. As I like to say, “Where there is a will, there is a way.””

WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Wayne B. - “Not at this moment.”

Wayne Bernard
Wayne Bernard

WST - “What is next for Pan Evolution?”

Wayne B. - “Work of course. But on the hit list right now is a virtual performance to be done next month, as well as the Pan is Sweet Virtual Showcase in August to air on the 24th.”

WST - “What is next for Wayne Bernard?”

Wayne B. - “Just to take things day by day with the graces of God’s guidance and blessings.”

  Wayne Bernard performs with his band Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra - the winning performance at 2018’s ‘Pan Is Sweet’

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