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Meet Savannah Leaf of Maine, USA

She has experienced the power of the Pan first-hand. Her love for the instrument is without question. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Savannah Leaf of Maine, USA shares how the steelpan instrument has impacted her life.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “Tell us about yourself.”

Savannah L. - “My name is Savannah Leaf and I’m a junior at George Stevens Academy High School in Blue Hill, Maine.”

WST - “How were you introduced to the steelpan instrument; what pan do you play?”

Savannah L. - “Steel drums have always been a huge part of my community ever since I can remember.  My first memory surrounding steel drums was when I was around five years old and my town was having its annual tree lighting.  The local steel drum band called Flash! in the Pans was playing this exciting music that I found very interesting.  Flash! in the Pans would also play regularly at my town’s community center.  The dances were a huge part of my summers then and have never stopped!  These performances are always upbeat and our whole community participates and dances together.  Every summer they’re every Monday night in a surrounding town.  My friends and I always make sure to support and dance to this incredible and inspiring steel drum band.   

“My school has it’s own pan room where Nigel Chase teaches two pan classes each semester, directs Planet Pan throughout the school year, and Pan Coalition during the summer.  At the beginning of freshmen year I decided to take a look at the steel drums up close.  This was the first time I was formally introduced to steel drums, even though I have been around them since I was little.  One of my best friends was already in Planet Pan and always spoke highly of it.  Since I had been around steel drums ever since I was little, but never got a chance to play, I wanted to give it a try.  I have always been intrigued with basses, so once I learned there was a bass drum, I knew right away that was what I wanted to play.  The first song I learned is called ‘Dis Is How.’  It took some coordination and patience, but soon enough I was having a blast playing the basses.”

WST - “What is it about steelpan that attracts you so?”

Savannah L. - “I was first attracted to steel drums because they’re so unique here in New England.  Once in high school, I wanted an after school activity that was interesting and lots of fun.  Pan fit this perfectly and has grown to be an incredibly huge part of my life.  It’s truly helped me through rough spots in my life that I don’t think I could have come out of if it weren’t for Pan.  There’s nothing like doing what you love with people you care about and watching people happily dancing to the music you’re making.”

WST - “How long have you been playing?”

Savannah L. - “Since October of 2010. It seems like just yesterday I walked into my school’s pan room.”

Savannah Leaf
Savannah Leaf

WST - “Do you play any other instruments?”

Savannah L. - “I’ve played the flute in my school’s band ever since 4th grade.”

WST - “What do your friends think about the steelpan being one of your instruments of choice?”

Savannah L. - “Playing steel drums can truly bring a group of people closer together like nothing else.  I have developed numerous friendships in the pan community that are some of the most important friendships in my life.  My friends outside of Pan all know that I’m heavily involved with steel drums and respect and support that.”

WST - “What are your favorite songs?  What types of music do you enjoy playing on pan?”

Savannah L. - “Destra’s catchy and upbeat songs are always loads of fun to play on pan.  My freshmen year we played a song called “Savannah Party” which will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first complex song I learned and we performed it at the first New England Pan Festival I went to.  I really enjoy playing calypso and anything with a fast tempo on pan.  Being able to not only play, but dance while playing makes it even more fun.  Classical pieces are also really fun to play.  It takes an extra dose of precision and accuracy that I really respect.”

WST - “Have you ever participated in Panorama, and if so, what does the Panorama mean to you?”

Savannah L. - “I have participated in Salah’s [Wilson] Panorama in Montreal with the band Pan Coalition during the past two summers.  The first year I went we played our arrangements and I happily soaked up the many talented performers and humidity.  It really opened my eyes to what Pan is like in other parts of the world.  I was completely blown away by everyone’s passion, excitement, and accuracy.  

“Last July we went back to Montreal to play in the same Panorama and it was hands down my favorite pan experience.  By then, I was an even more experienced and serious pan player.  Playing outside in the summer sun with people who are just as passionate about Pan as you are is something I will always highly enjoy.  Anticipating the tempo of the cow bell, playing at high speeds, being filmed and photographed as if you were famous, feeling the overpowering surge of adrenaline, being applauded so loudly by friends, family, fans, and fellow panners, and being proud of what you’ve accomplished - are just some of the wonderful feelings and experiences that Panorama has to offer.  To me, Panorama means coming together as not only a band, but as a family, to play and perform Pan for those you respect and who respect you in the most upbeat and passionate surrounding possible.”

WST - “When you think of steelpan, Maine, USA, does not come immediately to mind, but nevertheless, Pan is doing very well in Maine.  What is it about steelpan that has allowed it to flourish so well here?”

Savannah L. - “This question is very easy.  The reason steel drums are flourishing in Maine is because of Carl Chase and his son Nigel Chase.  They first brought attention to steel drums in their community, but this quickly spread.  Bands have formed in the community to spread and share what Pan has to offer.  Planet Pan for example, directed by Nigel Chase, spends their time during the school year going to schools, venues, and literally any place that is interested to teach workshops and perform at assemblies, parties, and other gatherings.  We’ve played and taught at elementary schools up to colleges, at ski resorts, in a corn maze, and even on the ocean while aboard the Sunbeam at various islands.  These performances and workshops have inspired many other schools and adults to form their own steel drum program or band.  Being a part of spreading this phenomenon has been nothing but humbling and it’s all thanks to Carl and Nigel.”

WST - “Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with Pan?”

Savannah L. - “Over the past two-and-a-half years Pan has changed my life in an incredibly positive way.  Pan has given me friendships I’ll always keep in my heart as family.  I now have the utmost respect for those who also consider themselves panners and share the same passion as I do.  Playing pan has practically handed me hundreds of memories on a silver platter that I know I would have never experienced if I hadn’t played pan.  Pan has given me a more optimistic and positive view on life, those around me, and myself.  When it comes down to it, if I hadn’t started to play pan, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.  Pan has the incredible power of bringing happiness to those who are in any way involved.

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