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Meet Patrice Lewis-Lett - Trinidad & Tobago

“There is a lack of real opportunity to showcase how dynamic and far-reaching the art form is. How many panists or bands fully function throughout the year? What about career opportunities beyond carnival? When we find ways to address this, we would be surprised as to the results.” 

She is an active business owner, a wife, mom of twins, and a firefighter.  Yet her love for the steelpan art form remains intact.  In addition she is a proud member of both the 2018 & 2019 Panorama champions Renegade Steel Orchestra. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - veteran panist Patrice Lewis-Lett shares her knowledge, feelings, experiences, expectations and unbridled passion for  the steelpan instrument, its music, the art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about yourself - who is Patrice Lewis-Lett, and how and when did you first become involved with Pan?”

Patrice L-L. - “I’m a wife and a mother of 12-year-old twin girls, avid panist, business owner, firefighter and two-time Panorama champion.

“I grew up in Couva, Trinidad and through my family members, I had a very early baptism into the world of pan. At just six years old, I remember my uncle, Nigel Seales (a past executive committee member of Amoco Renegades) teaching me my first song on a double seconds (Ole Lady Walk A Mile And A Half); I actually had to stand on a Carib case as I couldn’t reach the pan.

“From there, I then joined Couva Joylanders Steel Orchestra and enjoyed being a member of the stage side there for many years. In secondary school, music played a huge part of my academic studies and I was awarded for having the highest grade in CXC Music in the Caribbean. I then played with TCL Skiffle Bunch before finally graduating into the big band of 138 Charlotte Street, bp Renegades in 2002.”

WST - “The steelpan is an important part of your life. What is it that keeps you so passionate about pan?”

Patrice L-L. - “Pan! They call me Pandora. LOL. Everyone around me knows no matter how tired, how busy, I find a way to play. Tell me it’s time for practice, the energy just comes. Performing gives me a thrill, a level of excitement that is unexplainable.”

WST - “Were there any obstacles along the way, or were you cautioned or perhaps dissuaded from focusing on the steelpan instrument and orchestra as a major passion in your life?”

Patrice L-L. - “This year, I entered the world of national service and became a firefighter. After close to five months of intensive training from September to January, most people told me to take the year off. Really!? “We’re defending our Panorama title” is all I’m thinking. No way I was going to sit on the sidelines this year. I juggled shift-work, parenting duties, my business and everything in between to make it happen.”

Patrice Lewis-Lett -2019 Panorama Finals Night
Patrice Lewis-Lett -2019 Panorama Finals Night

WST - “You are Mom & Chief at the Lett household, mother of beautiful twin daughters and wife of noted panist/media & marketing entrepreneur Jeston Lett and now, Firefighter. How do you balance the roles of panist, professional and mom particularly during the Panorama season?”

Patrice L-L. - “Ohhh boy! Where do start? Only God.

“By the way, I also own a printing business which would normally take up any possible free time I can squeeze, but I’m grateful for the support systems I have.

“Furthermore, I actually thought with my daughters now in Secondary school it would have been a bit easier. However, with their extra busy schedule of Cadets, Dancing, Swimming and tons of class projects, makes it far from easy.

“When it comes to Panorama season however, I stock up on my supplements. Vitamins, Brain food, and lots of fruits. My little secret; every opportunity I get, I REST! Whether it’s five minutes or two hours, I take it.”

WST - “What is your fondest memory in pan?”

Patrice L-L. - “Honestly if I answered this in 2018, I would have said my 1st win with the Senior Band. However, nothing beats playing “Hookin’ Meh” on finals night then listening to those results. Unforgettably wonderful.”

WST - “What, if anything, disappoints you most in the steelband community?”

Firefighter Patrice Lett
Patrice Lewis-Lett  -  Firefighter Graduation

Patrice L-L. - “My greatest disappointment in the steelband community is sometimes how divided we are, especially when it comes to Panorama.”

WST - “Compare your experience as a Woman in Pan in 2019, with what you have probably heard, or might be aware of, regarding women in Pan - decades before you, and challenges they faced?”

Patrice L-L. - “I can use my skipper as an example. Candice Andrews-Brumant, as a leader, is just as strong or possibly stronger than some of her male counterparts. Decades ago, that wouldn’t even be a thought much less a reality. For me, my experience for the most part, has been great. I have never felt like someone is getting the upper hand or greater benefits because they’re a man, at least in my band, there’s equality. I’m happy to be a Woman in Pan in 2019.”

WST - “The name “Lett” is synonymous with Pan excellence in Trinidad & Tobago. Do you expect your children to become panists?”

Patrice L-L. - “The long pan legacy of the Letts... From Grandpa to Dad, and their uncles. I really don’t know how my girls are going to escape. Even though currently, they prefer to sing all the Panorama arrangements and make up dances to them, I hope they get to experience playing in a steelband one day.”

WST - “As a player, administrator and fan of pan - which role do you like the most?”

Patrice L-L. - “Personally, nothing beats playing my double seconds. Well at least, for now.”

WST - “This year was an extremely challenging one for Pan in Trinidad & Tobago. What did you learn? How has it changed you?”

Patrice L-L. - “Yes it has. I’ve learnt it’s really important to believe in what you want to achieve. Also, having a great team around you is critical. It’s something that I try my best to live by.”

WST - “Do you have any advice for women now coming into the steelband art form and are thinking of engaging in a leadership role in Pan?”

Patrice L-L. - “I think my previous answer would fit perfectly here as well. Plan, Prepare, Pray and Perform - it beats ole’ talk...”

WST - “This season you played with Renegades Steel Orchestra. What is Panorama to you?”

Patrice L-L. - “This year actually makes it 16 years playing with Renegades Steel Orchestra. It’s all about fun and family. It’s also a time of little sleep. LOL. But, it has paid off.”

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

Patrice L-L. - “It’s a bit of both. In its current form, there are certain things that seem to divide us more than bring us together as a steelband community. However, with that said, the creativity, energy, and dedication of so many individuals that come together to bring a band to the big stage is phenomenal, and that is the blessing.”

Finals night practice
Finals night practice

WST - “How do feel about the apparent move towards popular tunes of the day for Panorama?”

Patrice L-L. - “I like it. Just this year, I took my cousin and her friend to their first Panorama, and they were able to relate to all the songs the bands were playing while listening on the ‘Drag’ and if for that reason alone, I believe it’s the way to make Panorama more enjoyable to a wider audience.”

WST - “What is the greatest challenge the steelband music art form faces in Trinidad & Tobago today?”

Patrice L-L. - “There is a lack of real opportunity to showcase how dynamic and far-reaching the art form is. How many panists or bands fully function throughout the year? What about career opportunities beyond carnival? When we find ways to address this, we would be surprised as to the results.”

WST - “If there was one thing in Pan you could change immediately what would that be?”

Patrice L-L. - “I will amend the way the administration of Pan is currently set up. I believe the executive of Pan Trinbago should be similarly run to that of a board of directors. Their focus should be more in keeping with creation and implementation of policies and framework to take the instrument to the next level. Then they can employ a management or operations team made up of skilled professionals in the various required roles e.g. research, logistics, event management, marketing, and business development to name a few.”

WST - “What is your vision for Pan in Trinidad & Tobago in the near future?”

Patrice L-L. - “To see more youth programs, festivals and big performances and collaborations with other music communities locally and regionally. It would be nice to see more bands attempting to put on similar type concerts to what BP Renegades did for our 70th anniversary.”

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

Patrice L-L. - “I do wish the new executive of Pan Trinbago all the best, and do hope they can embrace some ideas coming from the membership and become more collaborative in their endeavors. Form partnerships, and seek the expertise in various fields to ensure efficiency, productivity and results. Let’s not try too hard to re-invent the wheel.”

Patrice Lewis-Lett with Renegades - 2019 Semi Finals
Panorama Semis

photos provided by Patrice Lewis-Lett

   Patrice Lewis-Lett performs with Renegades Steel Orchestra during the 2019 Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama finals

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