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Aug 25, 2023

Introducing Steel Pan to Schools as a Music Lesson

Steel Pan in Schools is an initiative geared towards introducing students to the musical instrument that’s native to the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.  Steel pan music is popular in Belize, particularly during the September Celebrations.  But it is also seen as a means of getting youths engaged in constructive recreation.  Tonight, we look at a story where the national instrument of Trinidad is being incorporated into S.J.C.’s music curriculum.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Fashioned from fifty-five gallon industrial drums, the steel pan is a modern percussion instrument that originated in Trinidad and Tobago.  In Belize, steel pan music has grown in popularity, but strides are still being made to introduce the instrument to schools across the country.


Akua Leith

Akua Leith, Pannist

“Pan in Schools is a concept that has been reigning in Trinidad & Tobago for quite some time.  I am a product of that particular concept.  So we see the impact in social spaces, so it goes beyond the institution having musicians.  You see it trickle into their communities and it’s one of the easiest instruments to introduce arts and culture to any beginner and we’re talking about early immersion of that student and steel pan can give them instant gratification towards playing some type of material.  From there they can go on to do other things.  It builds self-confidence, it builds camaraderie, it also instills discipline towards those students who are involved in any type of group work.”


There are presently twenty-five students enrolled in a music program at St. John’s College.  Among them is Arianna Quiroz.  When she was initially asked to take up the steel pan, she turned down the offer.


Arianna Quiroz

Arianna Quiroz, Music Student, S.J.C.

“So they asked me to play in my first year at SJC and I said no, which was one of my biggest regrets because eventually, in my second semester in joining, it was probably the best time at SJC and these people are really great people and my teacher, Carlos Perrote, he’s a big inspiration to us.”


Akua Leith is an acclaimed Trinidadian musician.  He is also employed by Musical Instruments of Trinidad & Tobago.


Akua Leith

“We are doing high-level quality instruments where we take beyond just the manufacturing part of steel pan, but we also have a support system that more or less gets the customer great support after the sale of the product. I see this being popular or powerful in the communities in the Caribbean, Belize, for instance, you have this program called “Beat A Pan And Not A Man”.  I mean, those success stories across the globe, putting pan into schools, using pan as an initiative towards these types of situations.”


At SJC, Carlos Perrote has put together a curriculum for the Music Department.  He is also working with Leith, as well as Musical Instruments of Trinidad & Tobago to strengthen the program by including steel pan and exposing the instrument and music to other parts of the region.


Carlos Perrote

Carlos Perrote, Music Instructor, SJC

“Mr. Akua [Leith] and Mr. Liam [Teague] are phenomenal musicians and also they want steel pan to continue developing in different areas, not only in Belize, you know, in all of Central America and wherever.  And that is a good approach and also, I am the head of department at SJC and we are embarking on communication between NIU and our school to open a major in steel pan.  We have a major in percussion, but now we will add a major in music.”


And how difficult was it for Arianna to learn the steel pan?


Arianna Quiroz

“At first it was very challenging and then eventually, I started to become more comfortable with it.  I really do love the environment that the steel pan created, not just with the instruments, but with the people themselves.  They’re really great to be around and learning something new is something that I love to do.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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