Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan


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Meet Tashie LeMaitre - Seattle, USA

“I definitely think Panorama is a blessing all around. In my eyes, it’s more than a competition. It’s a way to showcase your passion individually, as one unit. What I mean is an individual playing their best next to several other individuals doing the same creates a beautiful piece as a whole. Whether you’re arranging or playing; even when working behind the scenes. So much work, effort, and time is put into Panorama and I think it deserves more attention worldwide.” 

She is from a family of Panists. And as the saying goes - the fruit never falls far from the tree. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  panist Tashie LeMaitre shares her thoughts, experiences, outlook and viewpoints on the Steel Pan music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself, who is Tashie LeMaitre?”

Tashie LM. - “My name is Tashie LeMaitre. I am a 29-year-old female born in Germany. My father was in the military so I was raised just about everywhere. My father was born and raised in San Juan, Trinidad and my mother was born in Marvell, Arkansas and spent her early years in West Helena, but was raised most of her life in Seattle. Growing up, both of my parents encouraged us to immerse ourselves deeply in our roots, heritage, and culture; and to be proud of where we came from no matter where we lived.”

WST - “How did you become involved in the steelpan art form?”

Tashie LM. - “When I was young, my family overseas would send us videos of Trinidad Carnival and Panorama in the 90s. I was immediately drawn and captured by it all and knew that playing pan would be something that I’d want to pursue. A few of my uncles played different pans and even played in Panorama. Eventually a tenor pan was sent to my father and that was all it took! Between piano and pan, I taught myself how to play by listening to old calypso and soca tunes. I played any chance I could.”

Tashie LeMaitre

WST - “What has been the overall impact of Pan in your life thus far? Talk about your journey in pan.”

Tashie LM. - “Being surrounded by so many people who love playing pan as much as I do and pushed me to be better, has definitely impacted my journey. Also, the amount of encouragement I receive from my family has been one of the biggest factors.”

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

Tashie LM. - “In addition to pan, I’m also passionate about aerial arts. I have my own silks and love to hone my skills whenever I have the time or when I’m not practicing pan.”

Tashie LeMaitre - aerial arts with silks
Tashie LeMaitre - aerial arts with silks

WST - “What maintains your passion for pan?”

Tashie LM. - “My love for music and pride for my heritage are what keep me so passionate about pan.”

WST - “Do you play any other instrument?”

Tashie LM. - “In addition to pan, I also love playing the piano. I grew up playing piano in church and never fell out of love with it.”

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

Tashie LM. - “It would be hard for me to narrow my musical influences. It can be all over the place at times. I love Jazz, Blues, and Soca; but listen to almost all genres of music. My spectrum would include artists like: Sara Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, Machel, Kitchener, David Rudder, Patrice Roberts, Bunji; even early Charlotte Church or Paramore, etc. The list could go on.”

WST - “You are a member of the Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project in Washington. Talk about the performances and experiences with the group?”

Tashie LM. - “I am a proud member of the Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project in Washington, which was founded by Michael Shantz and Oriana Estrada. It has been one of the best choices I have made in life. I have met so many people, and have been a part of so many different experiences that I might have never come into contact with, had it not been for my involvement with the band. Being a part of the band has been almost like a gateway into other cultures, places, and music. I’ve played many shows and even had the recent opportunity to experience Cuba with them!

“I also play with Caribbean Connection founded by Obe Quarless. I have learned so much from playing with both of the bands. They are family and it’s an honor to be able to play alongside some of the most beautiful and talented people that I have come to know. Playing with both of the bands has definitely helped shape me into the musician that I am today.”

WST - “You have performed in New York Panorama with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra. Describe that experience, and how did it come about?”

Tashie LM. - “Last year I had the amazing opportunity to play in New York Panorama with Pan Evolution. It was my very first Panorama and I am extremely grateful to Pan Evolution for allowing me the opportunity to play with them. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had playing pan!

“Playing Trinidad Panorama has been a goal of mine since picking up a pair of mallets; and I still intend on pursuing that goal. The fact that I got to participate in NY Panorama has left me with an appetite for so much more. There are no words to describe the feeling that you get while standing in the middle of the pan yard as the many different pans ring out melodies from your favorite tunes. I hadn’t played with a band that large before. The entire experience was well worth it!”

Tashie LeMaitre, with performing artist & arranger Andre White
Tashie LeMaitre, with performing artist & arranger Andre White

WST - “What is your favorite Panorama piece?”

Tashie LM. - “Since this Panorama was my first, I will have to say that Andre White’s arrangement of “Full Extreme” by Ultimate Rejects is my favorite Panorama tune. Another one of my favorite songs is “Exodus” by Machel Montano, Rikki Jai, Karene Asche, and Duane O’Connor; and I saw a video of Exodus Steel Orchestra performing an arrangement by Pelham Goddard that I absolutely LOVE!”

WST - “From your perspective, is Panorama a blessing or a curse?”

Tashie LM. - “I definitely think Panorama is a blessing all around. In my eyes, it’s more than a competition. It’s a way to showcase your passion individually, as one unit. What I mean is an individual playing their best, next to several other individuals doing the same, creates a beautiful piece as a whole. Whether you’re arranging or playing; even when working behind the scenes. So much work, effort, and time is put into Panorama and I think it deserves more attention worldwide.”

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

Tashie LM. - “I have so far been the most proud of making my family so proud. When I hear them say things like, “You’re carrying on family tradition,” I feel so humbled. My uncle accompanied me to rehearsal one night in New York, and while we were playing, I happened to glance in his direction and caught the emotion in his eyes. I could have cried. Later, after practice, he told me that standing there brought back vivid memories and [he] proceeded to tell me stories of his early days playing in Trinidad. I had never really thought about how important my playing was to others, or how it impacted them.”

Tashie LeMaitre with Pan Evolution during their Basement Pan Yard recording session - Friday September 1, 2017
Tashie LeMaitre with Pan Evolution during their Basement Pan Yard recording session - Friday September 1, 2017

WST - “And what, if anything, disappoints you in relation to the art form?”

Tashie LM. - “The main thing I can say that is a bit disappointing at times is the lack of appreciation for the art of pan. Sometimes, when I’m asked about what instrument I play, and I mention pan, I get a lot of, “What is that?” or “Oh! You mean like ‘Under the Sea’!” These times don’t ever discourage me. If anything, it makes me want to play even more and to help provide more avenues for pan culture to be exposed.”

WST - “What do your family, friends think of your involvement with steelband?”

Tashie LM. - “My family and friends are some of my biggest supporters when it comes to playing in a steel band. They make it to most of my shows and even help out from time to time. They are my biggest cheering section.”

WST - “You may have come across from time to time, people who did not understand what you mean when you say you ‘play pan’ - if this has ever been the case, talk about how you shared your steel band experiences, and their reactions.”

Tashie LM. - “When people ask me about my involvement in pan, or what it is, I am more than eager to answer any questions they have and to share my passion. I’ve come across a lot of people who have expressed interest in pan, but have shied away or felt intimidated when thinking about pursuing the art. I almost feel like it’s my responsibility as a pan player to share what I know and to help nurture those curious seeds. There were a handful of people who were eager to help me out when I was searching for “where to start” and I would love to be that person for others.”

WST - “What advice would you give to females who would like to become involved with the steelband art form and learn to play the instrument?”

Tashie LM. - “I would encourage women to go for it! Women musicians are sometimes looked over or slept on and I think it’s important to have a voice and to express yourself. If playing pan is something you’re interested in, jump in there! Ask questions and get involved!”

WST - “If you could change one thing about pan what would that be?”

Tashie LM. - “I don’t think I’d want to change anything about pan itself; but maybe more of the response to it. Also, if there were a way to provide more access to the instruments in some form or fashion, I think that would be a great help in providing more exposure into the pan community.”

WST - “What is your vision for Pan’s future?”

Tashie LM. - “I definitely see pan culture evolving. Seeing pan in middle schools, high schools, and communities - in places that aren’t too familiar with pan, and not just colleges, makes my heart really happy. You also see more people embracing pan even if they don’t play the instruments directly.”

Tashie LeMaitre on tenor
Tashie LeMaitre

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

Tashie LM. - “I don’t foresee ever putting mallets down. I plan on passing this art down to my future children and grandchildren; and will encourage them like my parents did if it’s something they wish to continue. I might even try my hand at arranging.”

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

Tashie LM. - “As of right now, for someone being so new to the steel band community, I have no major concerns. I hope to continue to see the support grow between all steelbands.”

   Tashie LeMaitre performs with Pan Evolution during the orchestra’s 2017 Pan Yard Recording by Basement

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