Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Ellie Andy - Blue Hill, Maine

“...Pan and its music (and what we do with it) is at times my salvation, my sanity, and my feeling of worth. It is my joy (AND my frustrations while learning new songs). Nothing else (other than my family) compares to that....” In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  panist, musician, grandma and retired educator Ellie Andy shares her reflections, joy, views and love for the steelpan art form.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Ellie Andy?”

Ellie A. - “I am a 72-year-old retired kindergarten teacher, grandmother, and volunteer at our local library in charge of their fundraising book sales.  I like knitting, sewing, other arts and crafts, and PAN!!!”

WST - “How and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Ellie A. “I first became involved in Pan in 1992 after hearing a small local steelband play at an event at my school. What a wonderful, happy, infectious sound!!  I told myself – “I could do that!” When a beginning steelband class was offered as an adult Ed class  at our local high school, I signed up  -  and was hooked!  After the beginner class,  I signed up for Flash! In the Pans, directed by Carl Chase.  That was in 1993.  I have been making music with Flash! for 23 years.”

WST - “What made you fall in love with the steelpan instrument and its music?”

Ellie A. - “I fell in love with the infectious, happy and mellow sound of my guitar pans – and, the fact that  I could DO it.  Also, when playing our street dances in the summer. I love the effect that the music that I help make has on the audience.  It grabs the souls of the toddlers and young children as they dance freely while we play; the teens, going wild to the beats; the adults dancing a tad more sedately;  and the seniors toe-tapping.  It’s that special, happy sound of the pans and the rhythms of the music that is so special.”

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

Ellie A. - “No. Pan and its music (and what we do with it) is at times my salvation, my sanity, and my feeling of worth.  It is my joy (AND my frustrations while learning new songs.) Nothing else (other than my family) compares to that.”

WST - “What keeps your passion for Pan and its culture going?”

Ellie A. - “Watching the audiences of all ages enjoying and responding to the music.  Making memories for each of them. And selfishly, I love it myself – love playing it and  being involved with our band.”

Ellie Andy
Ellie Andy

WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Ellie A. - “I guess I am most proud of the fact that I can do it!!   But I am also VERY proud of being part of Flash! playing our street dances as fundraising benefits for other non-profit organizations in our area.  (We receive no payment for our performances).”

WST - “What makes Flash! In the Pans so special and successful in Maine?”

Ellie A. - “I think Flash! is so special because ANYONE can join and is welcomed.  We are not perfect – but we work mighty hard and do sound pretty darned good!   We make music - happy music, music for ALL ages, and in the process do community service.”

WST - “What is your favorite genre of music to play on steelpan?”

Ellie A. - “Personally, I love the classical pieces we do. I love how the pans can emulate the instruments in an orchestra – the richness of the sound,  But I also love the lightness and joy of the calypso and soca tunes.  Unfortunately, Panorama-type pieces are my least favorite. Probably a  factor  of my age!!  I love many Kitchener pieces.”

WST - “What would be your advice to young women who would like to become involved with the steelpan art form?”

Ellie A. - “JUST DO IT!”

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama piece?”

Ellie A. - “Of the pieces we have played, I liked “Toco Band”  and “It Do” Mean a “Ting” (an arrangement by Carl Chase).  I do not have a favorite from Trinidad panorama.”

WST - “Have you ever played in a Panorama competition? If so, where and how was the experience?”

Ellie A. - “I have played in Panorama-type festivals 4 times. Once in Boston and three times  in Montreal.  I can still feel the stress of the competition in Boston, and judges staring into my pans as I played!!  It was fascinating watching the others play – one of which played the same song we did (I liked our arrangement better!!!)  I can also still feel the deep thumping in my chest from the drums (from that first Boston Panorama) as the stadium broadcast the VERY loud music between performances.  Also the Caribbean food offered there.  I had never had goat and some of the other side dishes.  Montreal was less formal and more fun!!”

WST - “What are your fondest memories with Pan?”

Ellie A. - “Other than the wonderful feeling we get when we have wowed an audience at our street dances and as we take down, we hear comments like – “That was the most fun I’ve ever had!!” It was extremely memorable to have welcomed Jit Samaroo here in Blue Hill at the New England Steelband Festival that we hosted.  It was the first time being able to see up close and personal, and to meet, acclaimed steelband players from Trinidad.  What an experience just to watch (and hear) them play so easily.  At future Festival, we also hosted Amrit Samaroo and Crazy, which was also extremely memorable and educational, but that first time - wow!”

WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward? ”

Ellie A. - “I would just like to say, that our New England Steelband festival is a wonderful opportunity for steelbands to get together in a relaxing, non-competitive way; school bands, adult bands, participants of  all ages and all talents come together to share our love of the music and the instrument. AND I am so thankful that Trinidad and the U.S. are so helpful in bringing the musicians here to small town USA to share the music and culture!!”

Ellie Andy (in blue, second from left) playing double guitar with Flash! in the Pans
Ellie Andy (in blue, second from left) playing double guitar with Flash! in the Pans

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