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St. Mary’s Academy on track with Steelpan


News Release


Roseau, Dominica -  This all-boys secondary education institution in Roseau, Dominica, is one of three participants in the joint collaborative Steelpan in Schools initiative, between Dominica’s Cultural Division and UNESCO.  Background steelpan instruments (bass, tenor bass, guitars and cellos) were manufactured by Edward ‘Eddie’ André, and frontline instruments (tenors and double seconds) were made in and imported from St. Lucia, with overall funding provided by UNESCO.  Assisting the school’s music teacher, and dealing specifically with the steelpan component of the music program, Mr. Neville Christian was quietly proud of the acquisition of the different voices of instruments, noting that they currently had between sixteen and twenty boys from various forms interested in learning to play the instrument.

Like their recipient counterpart the Dominica Grammar School, St. Mary’s Academy also elected to focus on the younger students - between ages eleven and fourteen - as part of their burgeoning steel orchestra.  Christian told When Steel Talks (WST) that the group consisted primarily of first and second form students, but also featured a few third formers.  The latter were included in the program because those particular students had been patiently but eagerly awaiting the arrival of the steelpan instruments, promised more than two years previous, when they were first formers.  St. Mary’s Academy took delivery of the instruments in December 2007. 

Presently steelpan classes are held after school from 2:30 – 4:30 PM on Mondays and Thursdays.  There are hopes that the school’s orchestra will be making a showing at the next semi-Annual Pan By The Bay in November 2008, and possibly appearances before then.

Christian himself has a background in the steelpan and since 1990 was a member of Fanta Pan (and was one of the group's musicians in the 2006 event), one of Dominica’s more-renowned steel orchestras which was founded by his uncle Edward ‘Eddie’ André.  Through an arrangement with Dominica’s Cultural Division, André is also the tuner and main tutor for the steelpan students at St. Mary’s Academy.  Christian remains active on the steelpan scene outside of the school, and performed recently as part of Phase V, which came together to pay respect to and celebrate the life of Dominica's late Alan Jno Baptiste

Though it is just the beginning in pan for St. Mary’s Academy, Christian’s ultimate dream is of an orchestra between fifty and one hundred-players strong.  For now though, they are off to an enthusiastic start in their intimate pan room with instruments at the ready for practice.  The school’s steelband is temporarily housed in an annex belonging to the church adjacent to the school, but is already slated for bigger and better things, with a plot of land behind the school identified as the spot for their new ‘pan house’ to be built.


If you would like to help further the steelpan program at St. Mary’s Academy, contact Neville Christian at:

contact: Dominica Steelband Association | Anna Raffoul, President | email:  | tel: 1 (767) 448 2622

contact: Dominica's Division of Culture - Chief Music Officer | Pearle Christian |email:  | tel: 1 (767) 449 1804

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