VANESSA Headley is making pan history by possibly being the first woman to arrange for three conventional Panorama steel bands in the small, medium and large categories in the same year.
Being somewhat of a pan pioneer is nothing new to Headley of San Fernando, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, as in 2018 she became the first woman arranger to win the small conventional category with the song, Trouble, which she composed and sang. The song was played by Golden Hands.
A music psychologist, Headley will once again be arranging for Golden Hands – which remains a small band, and for Trinidad Valley Harps (Penal) in the medium category. In the large bands category, BJ Marcelle has passed the arrangers torch to her for NGC La Brea Nightingales.
In the history of Panorama, few women have emerged as arrangers – among them Marjorie Wooding, Merle Albino-De Couteau, Shenelle Abraham, Dr Mia Gormandy-Benjamin and Dr Jeannine Remy.
However, Headley who at age 31 has been in the industry for 27 years – ten of those arranging for Golden Hands, is ready for the challenge ahead of her.
She will be going into the Saturday’s semi-finals at Victoria Square in the small bands category at an advantage as one of the top three bands.
At the preliminary round, Golden Hands – playing Oil and Music, amassed 271 points in a three-way tie with Kersh Ramsey and the veteran Yohan Popwell. Ramsey, another talented young arranger, scored top honours with his arrangement of Savannah Grass for Tobago New East Side Dimension, while Popwell secured victory with his arrangement of Trouble in the Morning for Fascinators Pan Symphony.
Defending champion TT Defence Force, playing a Duvonne Stewart’s arrangement of Government Boots, placed 15 from among the 40 competing bands.
Thirty-one bands will compete for one of 14 places in the finals on January 17 at Queen’s Park Savannah, and Headley is hoping to take the title back to San Fernando. The small bands competition usually takes place at Skinner Park, San Fernando, but because the venue is being refurbished, it was moved to the Savannah.
Asked about the demand for her arranging skills, Headley said it was a bit of a surprise for her.
“I did not seek it, although I am very happy for the opportunity. This is my first time arranging for another band for Panorama. I worked with Phase 11 outside of Panorama, and I have worked on many projects with many people in many parts of the world. But, this is a unique opportunity for me.
“Trinidad Valley Harps (Penal) approached me because they moved from the small category to the medium category, and La Brea Nightingales also approached me through BJ Marcelle, so of course I accepted.”
For Valley Harps, her arrangement is Crazy’s The Party Now Start, and for Nightingales the tune of choice is Feeling It – the Baron remake by Swappi.
Because the season is so short and the competitions are so close, Headley, who a presenter on WACK Radio, said it is a bit challenging.
“It is a really unique year because the small band category is earlier (started in December). That has made it a little easier to manage, but I have to appreciate I could not do it without mummy (Golden Hands founder Franka Hills-Headley) and the Golden Hands family. Although they are entering the small band category, they are really giving me 100 per cent support. Mummy is also handling the drilling at Valley Harps.
Hills-Headley said this is a unique opportunity for her daughter and wished her success.