British High Commissioner Harriet Cross has described the steelpan as not just a musical instrument, but an instrument to inspire hope and change for future generations.
Her comments came as she presented managing and musical director of NLCB Fonclaire, Darren Sheppard with the Commonwealth Points of Light award on Tuesday evening in San Fernando.
In April, the queen conferred the award on Sheppard for his outstanding voluntary service: running music programmes for over 1,000 young people and seniors, through Fonclaire.
Sheppard asked for the presentation ceremony be held in Fonclaire’s panyard rather than at the British High Commission so he could share the recognition with the members of the close-knit community.
Crediting the band’s founding fathers and members for the recognition Sheppard said, “Without them I don’t know what I would have been.
“This is all I have done all I ever wanted to do. I did not choose pan, pan chose me."
Before an audience which included Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell, Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore and San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, Sheppard said the road to leading the band was not an easy journey.
Coming from Cooper Street, he said it was not an easy transition to be allowed entry into the Fonrose and Claire Street band.
He was the last of 11 children of a Baptist Mother who had difficulty grasping the concept of being in a panyard, but he persevered, running away to play with the band.
Having been kicked out five times Sheppard never joined another band but started his own pan sides across the globe. He recalled the fortuitous words of former arranger Rudin Austin: “Don’t run that boy. Just now he might be your leader or your arranger.”
“To God be the glory. So said, so done. I stand here as a proud product of the Hole,” he said, referring to band’s location, surrounded by hills.
Cross commended Sheppard on his achievement.
“The work Darren is doing to support and empower his community is inspiring and an excellent example of being a beacon of light and hope to the world.
“His contribution to the development of San Fernando, through his work with young people and seniors in the community, is an admirable example to us all.
“I am proud and delighted to deliver this award. The steelpan is appreciated globally and has many fans in the UK.
“It is heartening to see it used as not just a musical instrument, but an instrument to inspire hope and change for future generations.”
She explained this award is given to exceptional individuals in Commonwealth countries, and is of great importance to the UK and to the queen, who singled out Sheppard, 49, for it.
In his remarks Mitchell said more Darren Sheppards are needed in TT.
“Darren Sheppard represents selflessness, a strong commitment to the future generations, commitment to community pride and development. Darren has demonstrated an unrelenting, unwavering persistence in using our cultural assets to bring about the very best of us as a people, here in TT.
“Darren is indeed a light, a beacon in our community, and I wish that he continues, in his public-spiritedness, to illuminate TT for many, many years to come.”
Regrello also congratulated Sheppard.