Teaching seniors music: An oasis in my career as a group of retirees chose me as their pan tutor
By Aquil Arrindell
I had recently read that socialization is the deciding factor for achieving a longer, healthier life among the elderly. Staying useful, feeling wanted and appreciated by people are a necessary part of living. Learning new things that are mentally and physically stimulating are also high on the list of things to do, in order to maintain a longer, healthier life. To me, this makes sense because, after all, we are social beings and what better way to accomplish all of the things previously mentioned than to learn music in a steel pan institution among your peers.
In the midst of all the Pan Trinbago chaos, a breath of fresh air has been sent my way as, for the first time, I have the opportunity to teach a group of seniors.
In one’s career, because you’ve been doing the same work for so long, everything becomes automatic. So much so, that the excitement diminishes. Similar to the way things develop in a relationship. Feelings change from the excitement of fresh love, graduating to marriage followed by many children, then before you know it, it’s your 15-year anniversary. You are still devoted but it’s not like when things were new. I’ve been a music educator for over 20 years and although, at age 16, my first paying students were older that me, nearly all of my students have been children. Due to years of trial and error, continuous observation, analysis, assessment and reassessment, I’ve grown to understand that demographic with some level of accuracy. I know their limitations and their behaviours and I know when and how to adapt different lessons for different students. I’ve also developed ways to get results in a formal school setting and in an informal pan yard setting. My main objective has been to get my students to an independent level of musicianship as quickly as possible so that they can take themselves to the places they are destined for, musically.
I have had a couple of seniors as students already but they did not stay with the program long enough for me to develop a database of methodologies as I did with the youths. However, I have deduced, due to the demographic of my students and the fact that I only do group lessons, the elders left for two reasons. One, they tended to compare themselves with the youths, and because the youths were, more than often, faster, the elders felt that they could not compete and would give up. And two, people tend to feel more comfortable learning among people of their own age group.
So, a retirees’ group leader had been courting me for some time now, putting things in place. Finally, Saturday last, they came to the pan yard and the student-teacher magic was rekindled. If you think that the children ask a lot of questions, wait till you are blessed with the opportunity to teach a group of seniors. I deviated from my normal introductory lesson to the steel pan, which would normally be the pan technique whilst learning the chromatic scale. Instead they learned Merry Had a Little Lamb. Their excitement was just as intense and even more so than the children I normally teach. At the end of the session they learnt the whole song and a bit of music theory. That was followed by a lot of thank yous, appreciations and expressions of their willingness to continue. There is no doubt in my mind that there would be some participants willing to join our pan side, San City Steel Symphony, the steel band that made me into the musician I am today.
This is just another example of how the steel pan movement can benefit society. Enriching the social lives of our elders is just as important for their development as it is for our children’s. As we get older and our society becomes more developed, we must value its importance to society.
Teaching them all was my pleasure and I do wish to have a long and productive relationship with the retiree group. I would like to invite other seniors, who would like to learn to play pan, to take advantage of this opportunity to learn with people in their age bracket. Contact me at 727-8203 for further information. And again, thank you all for the opportunity to share this experience with you.
Contributing through music education.
Does that mean that you are quitting THE CIP and focusing on teaching SENIORS TO PLAY PAN?
THE LORD works in mysterious ways!!!
Me and Cecil Hinkson want to come down and join that STEELBAND.
That's your strength, your calling sir. I commend you on that groundbreaking initiative, as it reminds me of what Dr. Hailey of Mosaic Steel Orchestra is doing in Norfolk, Virginia with Americans from the "cradle to the rocking chair"
That's your FORTE, leave the politics of pan in Trinidad and Tobago to FORTEAU.
Finally, something positive on the 'ole talk forum'. Very refreshing indeed.
Happy Mother Day to all in advance