Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Meet Natasha Isaac of Brooklyn

She truly has ‘Pan in her DNA...’ In an exclusive, WST speaks to one of Brooklyn's finest -  Natasha Isaac of Sonatas Steel Orchestra, New York

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks ‘Celebration of Women in Pan’ logo

WST - “How did you first become involved in pan?

Natasha I. - “My grandfather [Steve “Shart” Edwards] used to play “traps” for Solo Harmonites and my cousin used to play with Caribbean Youth Panoramics (C.Y.P.), but I was never really interested in pan until I was in middle school (Philippa Schuyler). There I started playing and decided I wanted to play outside of school.”

WST - “Is there anything else - that is, comparable - like pan for you?”

Natasha I. - “I used to play the alto saxophone in high school. Although I enjoyed that instrument it still didn’t give me the same satisfaction and pleasure like pan.”

WST - “Every year you and many other young people sacrifice and invest a good portion of the summer towards Panorama. What keeps you going? ”

Natasha I. - “Pan in general keeps me going to the point where if I’m not in a pan yard practicing or at a band launching I feel like there’s nothing else to do. I think once you develop close friendships/relationships with the people in the “pan world” you begin to feel attached and it’s hard to stay away. The connection to the music as well as the instrument I play, keep me motivated to continue to rehearse daily throughout.”

Natasha Isaac
Natasha Isaac

WST - “What, if anything, do you hate about Pan, and why?”

Natasha I. - “It’s hard to hate anything about pan but the only thing that bothers me is that there aren’t many events throughout the year for bands to come together and play. There’s usually a couple here and there, but besides band launchings and Panorama of course there should be other things going on.”

WST - “You have grown up in and around Pan; what do you find most different now as an adult, as compared to when you were very much younger, in the art form?”

Natasha I. - “The dedication isn’t the same. When I first began playing, people were more enticed to be in the pan yard and practice for many hours. Now that people have grown and obligations have changed, it is harder to get a dedicated group of individuals that would be willing to come to practice at any time.”

Natasha Isaac
Natasha Isaac

WST - “You are a valued member of one of the most respected steel orchestras in New York history. What is it that makes Sonatas Steel Orchestra different?”

Natasha I. - “Having been around for so many years, what makes Sonatas different is the fact that having a manager like Mr. Mack instills values like respect into each player’s head - where everyone is treated equally; if you give respect then you’re going to get it back. Without respect towards one another I don’t think Sonatas would’ve been around for over forty years. Another thing is that everyone is considerate of one another and wants the best for the band. If there were any selfishness then nothing would ever get done. A lot of my inspiration in the band comes from knowing that Sade Constantine is doing a lot of the music.”

WST - “If women controlled all aspects of Pan, what would be different?”

Natasha I. - “There would sure be a lot of up-and-coming women arrangers for the bands. Also, certain rules would be put into action such as time management and making sure each band is properly organized.”

WST - “Have all aspects of discrimination towards the steelpan musicians in general, become a thing of the past, among your generation?”

Natasha I. - “I think it has became a thing of past because if you played pan and were a woman or child back then, you wouldn’t have gotten as much respect as the elders but now when you look around it’s the children who are now taking over and making a great impact on the bands.”

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama piece?”

Natasha I. - “That’s a real hard question because I don’t really have a favorite Panorama piece; there are just many different tunes where I think the music is “sweet”.”

Natasha Isaac
Natasha Isaac

WST - “Is Panorama a blessing or a curse?”

Natasha I. - “I think it’s a blessing because it’s a time where all the bands can bring their ‘A’ game, and it shows just about how much effort every band puts in by fundraising and practicing just to come and play even though they may not win. It can also be a curse because of the yearly dispute it causes amongst players, as well as the usual complaints about the organization that holds the Panorama. It helps to show the versatility of the instrument, but it also in some ways brings down the instrument.”

WST - “What is your vision for Pan in New York?”

Natasha I. - “My vision would be to have more events for players and supporters throughout the year. Sometimes having workshops on the instrument for aspiring arrangers and players who want to master their craft and skill would be excellent.”

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

Natasha I. - “I don’t plan to stop playing anytime soon, I AM A PAN JUMBIE, it’s in my blood.”

Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories

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