Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

Follow When Steel Talks
WST google search WST Forum WST facebook page WST on Twitter WST Newsletter Global Steelband listings

Meet Patricia Jones - Maryland, USA

“Music embodies my life to the point that it takes precedence to eating, drinking and sleeping. I often hear melodies and musical arrangements in my head...” 

She is a music educator, performer, recording musician, author, composer and arranger. Music is her life. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - Patricia Jones shares her musical journey and experiences, and insight into the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks Women Logo

WST - “Who is Patricia Jones? Tell us about yourself.”

Patricia J. - “I consider myself a music educator, performer, recording musician, author, composer and arranger. Music embodies my life to the point that it takes precedence to eating, drinking and sleeping. I often hear melodies and musical arrangements in my head and I attempt to recreate on keyboard or on paper. I learned to play the piano before entering kindergarten, which was [such] a great impact on my life at such an early age, that it chiseled music into my future! In alignment with that musical path, I studied Music Education, Special Education, as well as obtaining a M.A. degree in Social Science with Education Concentration.”

WST - “When and how did you first become associate with the steelpan instrument?”

Patricia J. - “Although my father was not a musician, he was a lover of music, especially the steelpan! Because of that love and growing up within the West Indian community in Washington, D.C., I was also exposed to the instrument at an early age. However, I did not learn to “beat” pan until the early 80s after college. After my years of associating with the Trinidad & Tobago Steelband of Washington, D.C., I finally became a member and learned to play the Triple Cellos under the tutelage of Rudolph Walker. I also have been a part of D.C. Pan Jammers, PanTastick, Trini Pan America and PanLara as well as my own Millennium Music Makers, which provides musical entertainment services.”  

Millennium Music Makers - Patricia Jones, at right
 Patricia Jones - with Millennium Music Makers

WST - “You are an organizer, performing artist, educator, steelpan player and music director. Which role do you cherish the most?”

Patricia J. - “The many hats I wear to accomplish my goals are all dear to me, which makes it difficult to choose which I cherish the most. I will say that my heart goes out and I am well pleased when students learn music and are able to display their interpretations of what they have learned. Performing plays an important role because it relaxes the senses.”

WST - “Tell us about PanLara and what inspired you to start the organization.”

Patricia J. - “Unfortunately, I cannot take the credit of organizing PanLara Youth Steel Orchestra. That would be Debbie Lara, who is the founder and director since its inception in 2004. Her inspiration for the organization should not be left untold. However, I have been an intrinsic part of the organization since 2012. Being a part of PanLara offers me the opportunity to continue my desire to perform, mentor, act in a public relations capacity and arrange as needed. Those duties I trustfully held in previous steelpan organizations in the area.”

Patricia Jones
 Patricia Jones

WST - “As director and manager of PanLara Steelband, what is the biggest challenge you face?”

Patricia J. - “The biggest challenge I face holding the responsibilities I am entrusted with is making sure the music is learned and holding myself accountable if it’s not. I cannot teach good musicianship, but I can show and I serve as a good example for others.”

WST - “Given that you’ve been involved in the steelband art form for a period of time, what aspects are notably different in your opinion – from when you first began your relationship with steelband, to now, years later?”

Patricia J. - “I have noticed over the course of years, that “women,” although we have been a part of the steelband community all along, we now have a bigger voice, as it were, and are being treated a little bit more seriously than before. I feel our accomplishments are being recognized on a grander scale than years prior and this is a notable improvement. The mere fact that Women in Pan are celebrated is evidence of that. I recall my first relationship with steelband, I was to be seen and not heard (smile).”

WST - “Being female, were you ever cautioned or perhaps dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved with steelband?”

Patricia J. - “I was cautioned only by my associates and friends who were not familiar with steelband and the culture. The fact that females were in the minority posed no threat to me. Yet some did not understand my attraction to the instrument. It is only now, many years later, those thoughts and cautions have been disbanded.”

WST - “Do you believe women are finally getting that acknowledgment they justly deserve within the steelband music movement?”

Patricia J. - “I believe for the most part women are getting acknowledged for what they have accomplished within the steelband music movement, and I feel, given the opportunity even more can be acknowledged. Remember there are still those with 20th century mentality living in the 21st century so it may take a little longer.”

WST - “And overall – do you think the steelband community and its musicians are generally well-regarded/respected?”

Patricia J. - “Overall, I believe the old adage - Actions Speak Louder than WORDS, has proven that the steelband community and its musicians have NOT been well-regarded nor respected to the highest degree necessary.”

WST - “Over the years, have you ever had challenges in illustrating/explaining the actual concept of the steel orchestra, the instrument, its capabilities, and/or your own role within the art form – to co-workers or friends?”

Patricia J. - “I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of a stringed ensemble, band and orchestra - so explaining the art form to fellow musicians has not presented a problem. Neither has making the correlation of steelpan instruments likened to an orchestra; i.e. tenor or soprano I would liken as first violin in an orchestra.”

WST - “What keeps your passion for the art form going?”

Patricia J. - “My love of the instrument, culture and music keeps me continually embraced!”

WST - “Do any of your family members play pan? If so, tell us about them.”

Patricia J. - “My oldest son Eddie Carlis played double seconds when he lived in the U.S. with D.C. Pan Jammers, and my youngest daughter Candace Jones played tenor with D.C. Pan Jammers, and plays tenor and four-pan cello with PanLara.”

WST - “If you had the power to change something in pan immediately what would that be?”

Patricia J. - “I would make it more accessible for those who want it. I know making pan is very detailed, but if there could be a way for it to be made quicker then I believe that would be a big advantage.”

Patricia Jones (partially hidden at rear, to gentleman’s left)
Patricia Jones (rear, to left of gentleman)

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

Patricia J. - “I am proud that the instrument has reached the four corners of the earth... practically. I am also impressed with the E-Pan!”

WST - “What disappoints you the most in the steelband movement?”

Patricia J. - “It is disappointing to see that the-powers-that-be have used the steelband movement for their personal gain as opposed to elevating the instrument and its musicians to the umpteenth level.”

WST - “What would be your advice to female players all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Patricia J. - “What comes to mind first is James Brown’s song "It’s A Man’s World." The first stanza says “This is a Man’s World... But it would be nothing without a Woman or a Girl”. (smile). With that said, any female from anywhere in the world who desires to play pan, teach pan, direct and/or organize a steelband can do so with perseverance, an attitude that you CAN succeed and have the tenacity to follow through and not be deterred despite opposition!”

WST - “Who and what are your musical influences?”

Patricia J. - “My musical influences cover several genres from Bach to Liberace to Noel Pointer and Chelsea Green. More pointedly in the pan community are a few arrangers such as Ken "Professor" Philmore, Len "Boogsie" Sharpe, Leon "Smooth" Edwards. There are too many to name but I also grew up listening to Shadow, Sparrow and the late Lord Kitchener.”

WST - “What is Panorama to you personally?”

Patricia J. - “Personally Panorama is the end result of tireless effort and musicianship of a pan player’s accomplishments within a given time. Panorama is the venue to showcase the extraordinary stylings of the steelpan to the world!”

Patricia Jones on bass, right
Trinidad & Tobago Steelband of Washington D.C.

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Patricia J. - “I will try to keep politically correct, I feel it is a curse AND a blessing. It is curse because the participants (steelbands) are not treated fairly for the hard work and effort - yet it is a blessing for the audience to hear such awesome and incredible music coming from steelpans!”

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

Patricia J. - “In a perfect world, steelpan would be a part of the music education curriculum in EVERY school in America! But for right now, I will settle for every school in Maryland. Realistically it would be great to be a part of the after school programs to start.”

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

Patricia J. - “It would be grand if there was more exposure of “Pan Life” here in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area. Via magazine, newsletter, etc. Just a thought.”

WST - “What is next for Mrs. Lara?”

Patricia J. - “In addition to community work, secure scholarship money for youths graduating from high school, helping with local up-and-coming businesses. It would behoove you to contact Debbie Lara to get further details.

Now as for me, Patricia Jones, I intend to continue mentoring, educating and performing, and I hope that I can get a Pan Life in the DMV going?”

photos provided by Patricia Jones

   PanLara performs -  (Steel Pan Cover)

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

Leave a comment in the WST forum

When Steel Talks shirts
now available!
Order yours now!
When Steel Talks -- T Shirt

When Steel Talks logo

Join When Steel Talks