LEAF International | Bequia
in Saint Vincent & the Grenadines | founded March 2006
“The tradition almost died here. There were no youth interested; now many kids play. It is good for the tradition; it is good for their minds.”
LEAF International has partnered with Bequia Community High School to start a unique, music & arts education program that teaches traditional steel pan drumming to children on the island. Called “Kids on Pans,” this program has grown from an introductory class trying to get kids excited about their cultural heritage to an established program with dedicated kids that are becoming professional steel drum musicians.
When the program started in Bequia, only one child on the small island had knowledge of the steel pan tradition. Due to Westernization and the relative expensiveness of the cost and regular tuning of the steel pans, the steel pan tradition was slowly fading out and losing relevance among the upcoming generation. Now, with the help of an inspired and engaged community, over 70 children have participated in the “Kids on Pans” program, resulting in a revival of the vibrant steel pan tradition.
The “Kids on Pans” program has brought both tangible and intangible impacts to individuals and the community at large.
Through the project, students gain:
- Steel Pan drumming skills
- Community performance experience
- Increased self-esteem & confidence
- Cultural awareness & historical knowledge
- Friendship, teamwork, & leadership skills
- Community recognition
According to 2013 Surveys:
Meet a Teaching Artist
Kesslon Wilson, a well known Steel Pan Musician and teacher, joined LEAF International-Kids On Pan in 2014 to lead the program forward, and meet the growing interest of the Bequia youth in Steel Pans.
(a story on Kesslon coming soon)
Meet Elvis Seales who taught the kids Steel Pan 2006-2013!
Thank you Elvis for your years of dedication and talent.
Originally from St. Vincent, Elvis was initiated into the importance of culture and music at an early age, as his father was not only the first Calypso King, but was Calypso King 3 times over the years! With a father deeply committed to the arts, Elvis was raised with a heightened sense of Caribbean culture and a fascination with music and dance. Learning to play steel drum from his older brother, Elvis used to make his living as a street musician in Bequia.
Now a teacher for the “Kids on Pans” program, and a private teacher on the nearby island of St. Vincent, Elvis gets to share his love of Caribbean culture and the steel pan tradition with a wide array of youth.
A dedicated teacher, Elvis describes his role in his own words:
“The kids call on me for lots of things. I am a mentor for them. They know I care. The steel pan program has changed how people on the island see them; I am very proud. Since the program started, you find kids on steel pan opening up for basketball games and playing for church events.” -Elvis Seales, Bequia Teaching Artist, 2006-2013
Meet a Student
Abigail King was only 6 years old when she began learning pan. She now loves the instrument and music so much that before she kneels to pray at night she plays the pan. Abby’s parents bought a pan for Abby with the help of other family members. Her pan skills GREATLY improved as a result! Pans are expensive, and the pan cost $1800 + $25 for the sticks. Pans do not come tuned, so LI Bequia helped Abby to pay for her pan to be tuned. Abby is pictured here at age 7 and again at age 9. We love to watch her grow up through the LI Bequia program!
“Abby is so much more confident after learning pan. It is the only thing she is doing that she really loves. I’m glad to see her fuel her energy into something positive.” -Abby’s mom, Glynis King
From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.
Kids on Pans are invited to have a weekly gig at the Bequia Beach Hotel!
Master Steel Pan player Kesslon Wilson becomes the lead Teaching Artist.
Program doubles in size, and there is even a waitlist.
Kids on Pans begin learning from new teacher, Errol. THANK YOU to Elvis for all of the years of amazing pan instruction for the kids!
Kids on Pans performed at OctoberLEAF Festival! Click HERE to see one of their amazing performances on stage!
Kids On Pans play holiday concerts: Da Reef, The Almond Tree, and Bequia Beach Hotel.
Elvis celebrated his 50th birthday May 28th! His students gave him a surprise party. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELVIS!!
Kids on Pans held an “Elvis Seales & his Pupils” Pan Concert at De Reef in Lower Bay Bequia. The intent was to engage the community, give the kids more concert performance experience, and raise awareness and funds for the Kids on Pans teaching program.
2010 & 2009
The School Principal received a grant to bring a new program: Pans Against Violence to the island
Students start performing around the island during holidays.
Program started in March 2006 at the Bequia Community High School
Gils Pan Shop: The steel pans were handmade in Trinidad at Gils Pan Shop and shipped by boat to the island.
Panyard, Inc.: Small Jumbie Jams pans were donated to the program by Panyard, Inc.