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Hazel Henley of Girl Pat Steel Orchestra - Trinidad & Tobago

Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form


Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - “Hazel was always very “avant garde,” and not only an academic but a talented musician, as well, who had always been fascinated by the pan....Some of us were schoolgirls and people would ask Hazel’s mother ‘How she could allow that in her house.’ “But,” said Pat, “she straightened them out replying ‘it’s my house and these children come from good families”.”

She was an intellectual, a Pan Pioneer, and multi-talented, thoughtful, forward-thinking and a steelband leader in an era when women were looked down upon for any association with pan. When Steel Talks spotlights panist, musician, arranger and performing artist the late Hazel Henley, founder of one of reportedly only two all-women steel orchestras in the 1950s in Trinidad and Tobago, “Girl Pat Steel Orchestra.”
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Ms Henley taught at my primary school in St. James, St. Agnes E.C. She was quite a character, but a beautiful person. I knew of one other teacher Ms. Nelson (nee Cyrus) who also taught there and at Ascension and was also a member of the band. Of course we had no idea at the time that this was going on, none whatsoever. I am proud to have known these women.

Mr.Maynard do you have any idea what year Ms. Henley died? No one seems to have that bit of information.

No, I don't have that information, but I can inquire. I was actually talking to my mom who mentioned that Ms. Henley, Mrs Nelson and a few other teachers were the first to play mas' and were reprimanded by the Ministry of Education at the time, but they survived.
I just asked my mom, she seems to think it was before 1967 but she is calling around. I will update when I find out. 

This is why we need a Hall of Fame to deliver Pan history. The story of Hazel's courage should not be allowed to get lost. Why has the building of a Pan facility allowed to deteriorate? There is so much in the mortar which needs to be pound out about poorly management of resources...it is a shame!

Hazel Henley, at 87, was alive in 2005 (See article below).
She was sadly suffering from senile dementia, and being cared for by friends, at her home in Diego Martin, Trinidad.

It is still unclear (@2017) as to whether she still survives or has since passed away.

TT Guardian
Sunday 6th February, 2005
(Sub section) Remembering a pan pioneer


Cheers - tobagojo

It's simply because the people elected to take the helm are only there for the prestige and position and not visionary individuals who actually have the ability to advance this great instrument. You will be again making this comment ten years from now and still no results.

Unfortunately, we lost last year, one of the best who saw pan in the future, Mr. Ken Philmore. It's individuals with his mind set we need at the helm. Iv'e often wondered after so many years of hearing the boring rhetorics repeated time and again about how great this instrument is, yet we do not have an outstanding building (Pan Museum) where tourists can visit and educate themselves on its humble beginnings and rich history. Not to mention the backbone and future of this music, our youths. What will we tell them.

You might be right, a hall of fame would be great. But who is actually listening.       

Pat Maurice was a member.  I lost touch with her after my retirement. Maybe Pat may have more to offer you for your archives.

Brenda H.

It's time the Caribbean step up and into other things besides tourism, rum and oil refining....

Sad of the wasting of so many talented minds to the brain drain that is depriving the entire region of advancement in technology on so many frontiers...


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