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Pan & Dance inspire Princes Town 2010 Graduating Class

Princes Town, Trinidad & Tobago, W.I.  - “Never Give Up” was simply the tune of choice played on the country’s national instrument (steelpan) by the Graduating Class of 2010 at the Princes Town Methodist School, in South Trinidad.

Princes Town Methodist SEA Graduating Class of 2010 Steelband
Princes Town Methodist SEA Graduating Class of 2010 Steelband

Only a few weeks prior the panists had gone through the rigors of SEA (Secondary Examination Assessment) and were ready to engage in light discourse. The precedent having been set by their predecessors in 2009 meant they were quite ready for the challenge.

The Yolanda Adams selection “Never Give Up” was the suggestion of the class teacher, Ms. Smith, who sold the idea to pan tutor Noel Skair.

Graduation Class of 2010
Graduation Class of 2010, Princes Town Methodist School

The piece was indeed a challenge but the ace music instructor who remains passionate about the steelpan art form decided to marry the steelband with vocals in a rather short space of time.  The said title, Never Give Up, was also chosen as the theme of the graduating class. Skair firmly believes that students must “never give up” and this attitude must transcend ‘pandom’ into academia.

Students dance at Princes Town Methodist School 2010 graduation ceremony
Students dance at 2010 graduation

According to Skair “the Pan in the Classroom Project” has come a long way since its introduction to the school in April, 2009 via the Ministry of Education.  The entire school is exposed to the programme and since then the students have improved in their academics.  In addition it had developed their Retention Level.

Students play national anthem with pan tutor Noel Skair
Students play national anthem with pan tutor Noel Skair

In a short but meaningful discourse with Skair, Hollis Clifton asked:  “why isn’t there a steelpan ensemble emerging from the crème de la crème from amongst all the classes in the Pan in School Project?”  Skair iterated that the program was not designed for that, i.e. according to the project concept.

Then a review of the program’s goals becomes the more pertinent, reflected Clifton, a former manager of the Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School Steelband in the 1980s and 1990s. The period gave prominence to the likes of then-young arrangers such as Ken “Professor” Philmore and the emergence of the likes of Darren Sheppard, Dwight Belgrove, Roger Charles, Liam Teague, Sean Ramsey et al.  It is common knowledge that a musical entity is always needed to fulfill engagements at school functions and other occasions. It also serves a two-tier purpose since it gives impetus for all the expending at practice sessions, not forgetting the boost to student self-esteem.

In retort Skair’s view was that there was a disconnect between the school syllabus and the immediate objectives of the Pan in the School Project, where the intent is to teach music literacy (theory) with the steelpan as the instrument.  It is meant to be a foundation for elementary music, not grades just yet.

Left up to the students, they are in their glee if they recognize a nursery rhyme or any other piece they are playing.  However, for the graduating class Principal Mc Lean made it mandatory for them to play at least one tune at their own graduation.

The principal’s address was delivered by Ms. Carla Mc Lean while the feature address was delivered by Probation Officer Ms. Frances Turton.

by Hollis Clifton



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