ONE of the oldest playing steelband in San Fernando, Hatters Steel Orchestra, is also the last of two South bands which would have captured the somewhat elusive Panorama title, way back in 1975.
For a number of years, lady luck has not smiled on the band, which fell victim to thieves and was uprooted from its base at Lady Hailes Avenue in 2021 to give way to the Waterfront Development project.
Its base has been temporarily shifted to the Girl Guides Headquarters, Rushworth Street extension, until December, with the promise from project manager, the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott), to return to a permanent state-of-the-art pan theatre designed to complement the proposed ambience.
In the doldrums for a number of years, the band, under new management, is trying to revive its glory days and is looking to the youth to continue the legacy.
It is for this reason, Pan Camp 2022 was revived after several years, with the main thrust being the creation of a Hatters Steel Orchestra Junior band.
Before covid19, initiatives to take on the training of secondary school students in preparation for the schools Panorama was explored and some students remained with the band.
This time around, the age limit has reduced and there were students as young as four years, gravitating to the national instrument.
“It is the only way forward to developing a successful band,” leader Whitfield Weeks told the Newsday.
The camp which began on July 11 ended on August 5.
Music teacher and co-ordinator Lydia Seecharan said the camp has exceeded their expectations.
Among many challenges the venue pose, such as heat and lack of water, she said it has been an experience neither the tutors Carlon Lyons, a graduate of Florida Memorial University, Wendell Bernard (retired bandmaster of the Fire Service) and the children would ever forget.
While it started out as being pan focused the camp has transformed into so much more as Seecharan said, one could never tell where the full potential of these impressionable minds lie until they are exposed to multi disciplines.
“We have 35 kids and that’s awesome – from four to 17 and they just don’t do pan here. We do some singing with them, we do Spanish with them, we did tie-dying, arts, craft, music, drumming, etiquette, dancing, sports. Field trip to NAPA to see the National Symphony Steel Orchestra also factored in the camp draw.
“I always say to them, when we play pan, we first play pan with our hearts, through our hands and that passion flows and they carry that lesson with them for life,” Seecharan said in an interview at the Girl Guides Headquarters.
The passion was evident by the smiles on the faces of the young players, as they performed a full piece they had been working on and dabbled in arts and craft for the benefit of the Newsday.
The love for the instrument was extended to the tutors whom they showed utmost respect and shared hugs.
“It’s been a joy and an honour working with them,” said Seecharan who had enrolled her own children in the camp.
Qualified in music theory and pan, this music teacher at Morne Diablo RC school, opined, “When you look at these children, their innocent faces, how can you not put your 100 per cent for them.
“They come here every day and give us the tutors 100 per cent every day. I wake up happy, every day, to come and see their faces because they make me proud.
“In everything we have given them, they have surpassed our expectations. We tend to want to put children down and tell them they had to a particular task without really exploring what they can do.
“At this camp we have given them that experience.”
Hatter’s secretary Leslie Hanson explained the pan camp was an idea which came out of the education committee to really broaden the horizon of young people.
She said she was very pleased with the outcome and looks forward to see the emergence of a junior band soon. She asserted, however, that the vision of the band is not without cost and would appreciate any assistance the unsponsored band can get.
Hanson said the band is still awaiting responses to letters sent to various ministries and organisations to assist with the camp and future development of the band.