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Meet Vernetta Paul of St. Lucia

She is the president of the St. Lucia Steel Band Association, and the first woman to ever hold this office in St. Lucia. Vernetta Paul shares her vision for the way forward for steelpan in St. Lucia in an exclusive with WST

A When Steel Talks Exclusive


WST - “Congratulations on your new assignment as President of the St. Lucia Steelband Association. Tell us about yourself and your prior involvement in Pan?”

Vernetta P. - “I am Vernetta Paul, born and raised in “The Helen of the West,” a proud St Lucian. I am a teacher by profession with majors in English Language and Literature, I also have an added love for regional and classical music. At present I am also the manager of St. Lucia Deltones Steel Orchestra sponsored by Super J chain of supermarkets. My melodic passion was drawn out at the St. Joseph’s Convent by Mr. Ivan Smith, our then-Steel Pan tutor.  With the added feel for performance and engaging in the pan life, I moved on to the North Stars Steel Orchestra where I participated in several panorama competitions and began an active pan life which advanced into “the big yard”. ”

WST - “How did your presidency come about?”

Vernetta P. - “My presidency originated from the desire to see steel pan music gain acclamation for its unique and melodious expressions. Thus, my election came about from the band members, comrades who voted [in recognition of] my confidence, interests and a resilient attitude, that they believe [combined] with my youthful experience, can impact the progressive movement of steel pan.”

WST - “As far WST (When Steel Talks) is aware - you are the third female president of a Steelband Association - the others being Anna Raffoul of Dominica and Brigitte Fischer of PANCH, Switzerland. Is this an added pressure to an already challenging job?”

Vernetta P. - “Being a woman by no means diminishes my competence or sets me apart from my other counterparts; however my level of expertise and leadership style sets me apart from them. However, the very nature of my profession allows for me to assume diverse personalities based on my audience and mission. I therefore believe that being who I am has lessened my task of maintaining good leadership within the association.”

Vernetta Paul

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing Pan in St. Lucia as you see it?”

Vernetta P. - “The greatest challenge that we face here is elevating ourselves to a standard which will be respected by our society. By and large, band membership is not consistent and that weakens the strength of the steel pan to be consistent in their appearances all year long. Thus more must be done to keep players interested.”

WST - “The female participation in pan, like other places has been tremendous in St. Lucia, why so?”

Vernetta P. - “Judging from my era into steel pan, many women entered this art form as an extra-curricular activity. Speaking from observation and first-hand experience, women have found themselves moved by the power of the steel pan music to bring different groupings of people together. That being said, new friendships and relations have been extended beyond the geographic boundaries of the island because of the love of pan.”

WST -“What will be different about your administration?”

Vernetta P. - “Since its establishment, my administration has undertaken a structural review because of our vast needs and desire for growth. We now have a more youthful executive still laced with persons who have a wealth of experience, who serve as members and advisors in our midst. While I believe that the president presides on every matter, members have assumed delegated tasks. The spread of control and responsibility is essential in allowing everyone a fair chance at making a difference while gaining recognition for their contribution.”

WST - “ What is your vision for Pan in St. Lucia?”

Vernetta P. - “My vision for pan is simple, “striking a balance between pan and the arts.” It is my firm belief that other aspects of culture has been given precedence over steel pan. Thus, my vision is geared towards developing strategies that promote steel pan music in a more unique way that balances with the arts.”

WST - “St. Lucia has had no shortage of great panorama steel orchestras. Is the public, government and private support where you would want it?”

Vernetta P. - “Indeed, the steel pan fraternity has over the years received much assistance from the government of St. Lucia and from the private sector. While more can be done with our scope and vision for steel pan at this moment, we are very thankful for their continued support and involvement in making panorama a success.”

WST - “Years from now when we look back at your administration, what would you like to be remembered for?”

Vernetta P. - “Our vision of balancing the steel pan music with the arts. I would love to see steel pan music play a more central role in carnival and national events.”

WST - “A few years ago Ms. Anna Raffoul, the then-president of the Dominica Steelband Association, single-handedly orchestrated the OECS Junior Panorama which brought together youth orchestras from throughout the Caribbean. It was an awesome event. Is this something that could be spearheaded and held in St. Lucia?”

Vernetta P. - “Yes this can be done in St. Lucia, given that we are looking forward to have a more pan-driven nation.”

WST - “Can culture be managed as a business?”

Vernetta P. - “Culture is very dynamic and susceptible to change, based on the driven interests of present generations. Thus culture can be managed as a business by incorporating what already obtains with the current love and interests of the present generation. If marketed properly it can be an attraction for visitors and locals alike.”

WST - “Pan in St. Lucia has a great history. What is being done to preserve that history?”

Vernetta P. - “Thus far the history of steel pan is persevered in the archives of some books and human resources. This administration has begun working on a project which will preserve both its music as well as its human development.”

WST - “What in St. Lucia Pan are you most proud of?”

Vernetta P. - “I have been very impressed with the wide spread of steel pan across the different constituencies on the island. This is very encouraging to note as steel pan music has the potential to grow island-wide.”

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