When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

by Andre Moses

St. Augustine Secondary Steel Orchestra has won ten (10) national titles: seven (7) Panoramas and three (3) Steelband Festivals. The band has toured Barbados, France, Scotland and South Africa and has produced music teachers, solo performers, innovators, entrepreneurs and administrators. It all began in 1979, when then-St. Augustine Secondary music teacher, Louise McIntosh, decided to make her music class to the Sforzata panyard which was then located at the corner of Warren Street and the Eastern Main Road. This established a relationship between Sforzata and St. Augustine Secondary that saw the band visit the school to perform as part of the school’s annual Carnival program, and eventually agree to host St. Augustine for its first foray into national competition, - the Junior Panorama competition of 1980. The band played Tobago Gyul and placed 3rd. Osmond Downer, Nervin Saunders, Pat Adams and Andre Moses were later to play key roles in the band’s success story, but it was Louise McIntosh’s insistence that the steelpan should be a part of music education that got the pan tradition started at St. Augustine.

On a more global scale, Pan Trinbago’s formalization of a more structured approach to Pan in Schools is greatly indebted to the impassioned pleas of two music teachers, Louise McIntosh and Ms. Clement, who came to Pan Trinbago’s 1980 Convention and insisted that the body do something to put the steelpan in a central position in the formal music curriculum for schools in Trinidad and Tobago. In response to those pleas a Pan in Schools Committee was formed which included the then-Music Curriculum Officer in the Ministry of Education, Alma Pierre as well as Jerry Jemmott, Selwyn Tarradath and Andre Moses. The first initiative of this committee was to organise the inaugural School Steelband Music Festival in 1981. This initiative brought a lot of music teachers into the Pan in Schools loop with a focus on scored music, and thereafter the call for music literacy and the steelpan as the instrument of choice for music education, became much louder.

It would take another twenty (20) years of agitation before, on the Pan in Schools Coordinating Council’s (the PSCC) instigation, the Pan in the Classroom Unit was set up in the Ministry of Education in 2003. Once again the fruition of this dream is indebted to the strident voices like those of Louise McIntosh’s and Ms. Clement’s and also the selfless dedication of pioneers in Pan in Schools like Nervin Saunders, Mc Donald Redhead, Annette Griffith, the Lee Macks, “Moose” Joseph, Sonny Danclair and so many other patriots who gave their time and commitment to the cause of Pan in Schools over so many years.

And so ‘Louise McIntosh wherever you are compere, just for you we come out with real fire this year’ and the years to come and salute you for the foundational role that you played in the formalization of Pan in Schools.

More on Louise McIntosh

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