The School of Music’s Steel Orchestra proves popular
The best thing about being part of the Bermuda School of Music Steel Orchestra under the direction of Janice Pearman?
“Playing music. It's what I do,” declared 12-year-old Jordan Lambe.
The Dellwood Middle School student is one of 12 students from nine different public and private schools who meet after school on Wednesdays and Fridays to learn to play the iconic Caribbean instrument, which originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s.
Shiloh Roberts, another member of the orchestra, can trace her roots, familial and musical, to that Caribbean country; in fact, she is a fourth-generation pan player, having inherited the love of the music from her father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Ten-year-old Shiloh, a student at the Bermuda High School, has been playing tenor pan for several years, and with the BSM orchestra for three.
“My dad originated from Trinidad,” she explained, “and he used to play steel pan. He had his own pan and he gave it to me. I was taking private lessons at Mrs Pearman's house, and she told me about the orchestra. I said I'd give it a try and I loved it. At this time I really like playing, and I'm not going to stop. It's fun and I meet new friends.”
Another incentive, for Shiloh, is the musical director herself: “Mrs Pearman is very nice. She lets us know we're part of the world and lets people who are really important see what we can do. She lets Bermuda see what we have talented people.”
Tiffany Durham has followed Mrs. Pearman from her Paget Primary days, when the music teacher, who now teaches at Somersfield Academy, introduced the instrument to the primary school. Mrs Pearman, who hails from Trinidad herself, was keen to revitalise interest in a style of music that was once very popular in Bermuda.
Now at the Bermuda Institute, Tiffany plays double second two pans for a number of reasons: “I like doing it. I get to go to different places and play for people. I can explore new things. I like being able to play with my friends, and I like the music. It's the type of music I listen to.”
For Clara Muhammad student Isa Trott, steel pan was a natural fit.
“My Mum is a Trinidadian,” he explained, “and when I was in Trinidad, my Mum would turn up the radio and I would dance to the music. So when I came back to Bermuda, she enrolled me in steel pan classes.”
The appeal of the music, for the nine-year-old tenor pan player, is that, “It's good music. I can dance to it [even while playing] and I can enjoy it.”
Kia Smith, now 13 years old and at the Bermuda Institute, also followed Mrs Pearman from Paget Primary because, “It's a good instrument to play and it sounds nice.”
The pan players are supported by a rhythm section, of which Jordan Lambe is a member.
He takes drum lessons from Kevin Maybury and is a member of a gombey troupe, but was keen to learn a different genre of music. When he was told by his friend Stefan Furbert that the orchestra was looking for a drummer, he was happy to come along and be the drummer, so Jordan can now play the Six Bass pans.
“I like it,” he declared. “It's a good instrument to learn. And it's not that hard.”
The Bermuda School of Music Steel Orchestra was established in July 2008 and aims to introduce, and provide continuity for students who wish to play the steel pan. The orchestra, whose members range from primary students to adults, has performed at a variety of community events.
The steel pan has a long history of association with Bermuda, having arrived here within a decade of its invention.
The pans unique sound was originally the result of carefully shaping and stressing sections of the base of standard 55-gallon oil drums, and though now methods of production have been refined, the design and tuning of each instrument are done by hand.
For more information about the Steel Orchestra, contact the Bermuda School of Music 296-5100. Look out for the Steel Orchestra's first CD in 2011.