Candice Andrews-Burmant has a mixture of blood and pan running through her veins. The 46-year-old BP Renegades Steel Orchestra captain is celebrating 32 years as a band member – 11 of those as captain. She believes it is her love for the national instrument and for discipline that makes her a great fit in the leadership position.
“It’s really challenging, but I love leading because I am a very disciplined person. I like discipline, so I try to enforce that. You will never see me doing something opposite to what I say to the players. It was a journey and it is a task because I am a woman, but I must say that I do get the respect from the players both men and women.”
She said having people look up to her is “really an honour” especially since her seven-year-old daughter, McKenzie, gets to see her mother in a leadership capacity.
“The other day one of my tuners went to tune a band and he messaged me and said ‘Every band I go in, everyone is only talking about you and saying you’re the best captain they’ve ever seen and you’re a really strong woman.’ I mean, I am very humble, so I just brush these things away, but deep down inside it makes me feel good and to know that my daughter can see her mother being respected by so many people all over the world.”
Andrews-Burmant said she first started playing pan while she was a student at Woodbrook Government School before deciding to play with a band.
“I used to live next to Renegades panyard with my grandmother and two of my uncles played in the band as well. One of my uncles started playing in the band when it first started and the other just used to play. I always liked the sound of the steelpan, so I used to go by the gate of the panyard and listen. My mother’s friend would come and pick me up because I was under age and he would take me inside the panyard.
"I found myself always wanting to hear the band and to go to the Savannah with the band. In form three, I played pan in school not in a big way, but I would play the anthem and these things and at the age of 15, I decided I wanted to start playing pan. Seeing as though I was living by the panyard, it wasn’t a problem, it was just a matter of doing my school work too, but I was willing to do it.”
But she is convinced her musical inclination didn't come about by chance. Andrews-Burmant said her dad's involvement in another band as an arranger had a lot to do with her love for the national instrument, and she feels duty-bound to pass it on to her offspring.
“I was and am the only female in my family to play pan.”
But although many of her female relatives are not drawn to the steelpan like she was, she is trying to change that by introducing her daughter to it.
“I bought a pan for my daughter, but my daughter likes doing plenty things, so she isn’t attached to the steelpan as I am. She has the little experience and she goes to pan classes and piano classes and so on.”
The Renegades captain describes her transition from being a regular player to captain as “a rollercoaster ride.”
“Sometimes I shed tears because I’m overwhelmed, not with the work, but different situations. As a leader you need certain things to happen and sometimes they don’t.”
She said there are days when she is faced with so many challenges that she gets upset with the players when they don't give their all.
She said in her time as captain, she was able to lead Renegades to first place at the national Panorama competition in 2018 and 2019. As for the other nine years: the band placed second in 2020, fourth once and placed third seven times.
“When I won the first Panorama as the first female captain, the school (Woodbrook Government Secondary) had a banner outside with my picture because that year I think two calypsonians who went to that school also did well in their competitions so the school honoured us. I remember them asking me for a picture and they made a banner and hung it in front the school for the whole year.”
Her voice laced with teary gratitude, she said, “I’m a kind of person to get emotional very quick, especially when I see the accomplishments made in my life.”
And when she is not in the panyard getting Renegades players ready to shine, Andrews-Brumant runs a company called the Soca Mullets with her husband Andrew Brumant.
“We make everything for the steel orchestra – pan sticks, pans, pan cases and we supply all the bookstores and music stores in the country with sticks. We also have other businesses that is not attached to music but we are entrepreneurs.”
She said because she is so disciplined, does not waste time, and sets her own agenda, it’s easier to manage all her roles.
“The minute I open my eyes, my brain starts clicking. At the end of the day, I must check everything out, nothing must roll over.”
Andrews-Brumant said she even keep track of the time she takes when getting her daughter to and from her extracurricular activities.
And she always offers this piece of advice to band members: “First thing I would say and I always live by this, I find people need to be humble, that’s the first thing. You don’t go and drag respect from people, you earn respect. I believe humility is one of the key factors in earning respect.”
She said she treats the band like a business in terms of not encouraging certain acts such as smoking illegal substances and fighting in the panyard. And in order to maintain that standard, she tries to always be the example.
“So my advice is to change that narrative by example and become that person you want them to be.”