A record number of school steelbands have registered for this year’s Junior Panorama competitions.
This was revealed by Minister of Education, Anthony Garcia, at the formal launch of Junior Panorama at the VIP Lounge, Queen’s Park Savannah (QPS) on Friday.
Some 22 secondary schools and 45 primary school bands, as well as bands in the Under 21 category, will battle for a place in the finals at the QPS on January 26.
Garcia said at the launch, pan is one of those ingredients that adds to the vibrancy of TT’s education system.
He noted last year’s high quality performances by the school bands to the point where he said, overseas stakeholders have been asking for copies of the performances so they can have them etched firmly in their memory.
Then, in response to an earlier suggestion by Pan Trinbago president, Beverly Ramsey-Moore that the history of pan be taught in schools, Garcia said: “That is exactly what we are doing. Some time last year, we commissioned a text Foundation Readings and the History of TT, and a very important chapter was about the growth and development of the steelpan, written by Nestor Sullivan. That book is in every school in TT.”
Taking a line from students from Naparima Girls’ High and Naparima College who, while relating their Panorama experience, said “The panyard is a classroom,” Garcia said: “We in the steelband movement are always saying that the panyard is the most important place and the most safe place that one can be. Pan has reached and will continue to be the pivot of our education system.”
He said when one looks at the history of the steelpan, it was evident the founding fathers were geniuses in their own right.
“They didn’t have a university education but they had talent, they had drive. And because of that, they were able to put together an orchestra that we now lend to the world. What we are seeing today is really an investment in our young people, and this investment will pay tremendous dividends in the future.”
Garcia also spoke of a conversation with principal of the University of the West Indies, Prof Brian Copeland, who told him everything possible must be done to keep pan alive. And, in an effort to move further, Copeland wants to introduce the PHI pan into the classroom.
Garcia said 118 schools are fully equipped with steel orchestras.
“My commitment is that in every school there must be the presence of a steelpan and we are well on our way towards achieving this.”
Earlier, Ramsey-Moore began her remarks singing a line from Destra Garcia’s Calling Meh to the surprise of many who applauded her.
She then thanked Garcia for the work he is doing, ensuring that the national instrument lives on.