Celebration of Women
and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan - 2010

 

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“Ladies of Pan At The University of Cambridge”

Ladies of Steelpan At The University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in England and the fourth oldest in Europe. Cambridge is consistently ranked in the world’s top five universities and placed as the leading university in Europe, by numerous media and academic rankings. Pan has been in British education since 1969 when Gerald Forsythe OBE set up the first school steel band in London. Many schools adopted the instrument and it is very much a part of musical education in schools and community groups. Many of these forums have been formed by British Steel bands. The arrival of the first ‘all female’ college steel band and the first Cambridge University Steel Pan Society (CUSPS) are recent developments in the progression of Pan in education.

 
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Lucy Cavendish College was founded in 1965 by women researchers and lecturers of the University of Cambridge who felt that women were not thoroughly represented within the university. The college is named in honour of Lucy Cavendish (1841-1925), who campaigned for the reform of women’s education. A new student at the college and pan player Juliet Sharpe, was too far away from her usual band did not want to miss playing pan while studying for 3 years. So she formed CUSPS and commissioned Debra Romain as a musical director and invited her to give a series of presentations to the college members. CUSPS applied for funding to purchase some instruments to form ‘Liberators Steel Band’ who are also known as the Lucy Cavendish Ladies of Steel.

This is the first band in CUSPS and the first instruments are being made by none other the Gerald Forsythe OBE.

Debra RomainDebra (pictured right) is UK’s first female band manager/arranger to compete in the UK National Panorama. She is currently the Musical Director of Stardust Steel Orchestra, Oasis Academy Steel Band and Twyford School Steel Orchestra. She teaches a range of students, some as young as five years old at Tabernacle ‘Carnival Village’ in London.  She has teaching experience which spans over 18 years and many of her students have gone on to arrange and teach pan successfully.  Debra, a classically trained musician of Trinidadian heritage, learnt to play pan at the age of 8 by attending a community run class by Ebony Steel Band.  At the age of 19 she then began teaching pan at Burlington Danes School, London and has continued to educate people to play pan ever since.  It is hoped that other colleges in the University of Cambridge will also form similar college bands, with a vision to collaborate annually as the CUSPS Steel Orchestra which will also be directed by Miss Debra Romain.  When in Trinidad Debra is a player in Phase 2 Pan Groove.

Debra Romain: “I am honoured to have the opportunity to pioneer yet another project which will expose our national instrument to a wider audience. As a British youth of Caribbean heritage it was imperative to me to have this education growing up as a minority in the UK.  It is important to me that pan is valued and respected as a musical instrument and obtains an equal place in higher education with other musical instruments.”

Links:
CUSPS Webpage
http://www.lucy-cav.cam.ac.uk/pages/students/clubs-and-societies/steel-pan-society.php
Cambridge University Press Release
http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/dp/2010031103

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