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St. Veronicas Youth Steel Orchestra performs at the White House

Steelpan Music Comes to Capitol Hill
President Bush tries his hand at the Tenor Pan


St. Veronicas Youth Steel Orchestra perform in the Gold Room at the White House

St. Veronicas Youth Steel Orchestra performed at the White House on February 7, 2008. The group was invited to be the entertainment for the Helping America’s Youth Program celebration. Helping America’s Youth Program was initiated three years ago by the President and was chaired by the First Lady, Laura Bush. On this day the President signed an Executive Order establishing the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs thus ensuring that the program will continue by the new incoming administration.

It started on January 24 when I received a phone call at my office. I was asked if I was Anthony Mc Farlane and if my wife, Anita and I were responsible for the St. Veronicas Youth Steel Orchestra. The person introduced herself as Sara Gesiriech, Education Advisor to the Office of the First Lady, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education.  I was informed that she had some questions for me concerning the band. Various questions were asked about the existence of the band, how long have we been together, the purpose of the group, age of its members, number of members, etc. I invited her to visit our website,  I was then informed that they were looking for a group to perform at Helping America’s Youth Program being celebrated in the White House on February 7th and that we were highly recommended for consideration. I was advised that security checks will have to be made on my wife and myself and if okayed by the White House, the members who will be performing will also have to be checked.

This conversation was followed by emails requesting additional information and personal information on my wife and me. I was later informed that St. Veronicas Youth Steel Orchestra was contacted because of a performance we did 4 years ago for a conference on National Youth in Washington DC. Due to our professional approach and the sweet music that we provided our name was the first that was mentioned amongst others that were under consideration.  My wife and myself were okayed by the White House and discussion was held on the number of members to perform.  I was advised not to discuss much of this until it happened because security checks were still being done on all concerned.  Once clearance was obtained and we were informed that we were indeed the performing group for the occasion, plans were put in place for this to happen.

A stage plot was requested, list of performers with their ages, social security numbers, and addresses were sent to the White House. We were informed of expected protocol when performing for the President and First Lady and the invited guests.  We were expected to arrive at 15th Street not later than 12:00 PM, where we were to undergo a security check before proceeding to the drop-off point in the East Wing of the White House.  Security gates were opened to allow us to enter and finally we were provided with passes to enter the East Wing after we were individually checked by security.

Ten of us visited the White House:  Kish/ low bass, Sade/ double tenor, Antoinette/ tenor, Carol/ four cello, Ayana/ tenor, Jonathan/ drum set, Gregory/ congas, Elan/ cowbell, accompanied by Anthony Mc Farlane/ scratcher and Anita Mc Farlane/ tambourine.  At the end of the official signing and making of remarks, the First Lady introduced the group.  We played "Save the Last Dance" to a standing ovation.  The President and First Lady tapped their feet during the performance and joined the group on stage at its conclusion.  The President also took the opportunity to play the tenor pan.  All major news media was present to witness the performance.  At the conclusion, the applause continued for a while with invited guests congratulating the group on an outstanding performance.

St. Veronicas Youth Steel Orchestra

The event took place in the Gold Room of the East Wing, but prior to the beginning of the ceremony the President and First Lady took photographs with the group in the Blue Room.  All of this was rehearsed prior to the commencement of the ceremony to the exact minute.  We were applauded, praised, questioned, and congratulated by guests. Many questions were asked about the steel drum during the reception dinner.  It was an opportunity for steel drums to be known by many:  where it came from, how it is made, how the various musical notes are derived on the pans, etc.  What an opportunity for “pan”, “panmen”, and Trinidad and Tobago.  No one could have informed us as to whether or not steel drums were ever in the White house.  It was, however, confirmed that it was the first time under this administration, and the first youth steel band to perform in the white house.

To visit the White House walk through the East Wing, sit in the Blue Room, sit in the Green Room, perform in the Gold Room - is still a dream.  It is an occasion that will never be forgotten, an historical moment.  The members are still reminiscing on the occasion, their schools are congratulating them on their visit and everyone is expressing a feeling of joy for those who experienced this occasion.

Contact Anthony Mc Farlane at:  1 (410) 986-5449 (O); 1 (410) 292-6814 (Cell)
or email .

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