Founded in March 2006 • 70+ Kids have been in Kids On Pans
Weekly Classes • Ages 6 to 15
Elvis later echos, "The steel pan is our national instrument and now our kids appreciate and love to play and perform for people. Almost every function now on the island has one of the kids playing at it."
The "Kids on Pans" project at Bequia Community High School teaches traditional steel pan drumming. When the program started only one kid on the island was learning to play and now the tradition of steel pan drumming is preserved among many youth! Many of the students now own their own pans which was a considerable investment and sacrifice for the parents. Pans are unpacked, setup, and the kids begin to warm up. It was thrilling to see that many of the kids are using pans that are not marked with the notes- they KNOW their notes- over 30 individual notes on a pan- it is now intuitive. " We have so many songs! Hours of material. My favorite song that the kids have learned is “Masquerade” by George Benson. The kids say it is really difficult, but they have worked to learn it. It took a long time and they got it!" Elvis notes.
Through project students gain:
• Steel Pan drumming skills
• Community performance experience
• Self esteem and confidence
• Cultural awareness and historical knowledge
• Friendship, team work, and leadership skills
• Community Recogintion
About the Pan Drums
The steel pans were handmade in Trinidad at Gils Pan Shop and shipped by boat to the island. Small Jumbie Jams pans were donated by Panyard, Inc. Local experts helped plan for the types of pans needed for the program. The pans need to be tuned twice a year and there are only a few pan tuners in the Grenadine islands, none of whom live in Bequia. LEAF International will be stepping continue to help support Elvis’ teaching position and to help with fundraising to tune the pans twice a year.
The Teaching Artist
Elvis Seales is originally from St. Vincent where his father was the first Calypso King (3 times King!). Elvis learned to play steel pan from his older brother. He used to make a living as a street musician in Bequia. Now he is the teacher at the "Kids on Pans" project, and he also teaches private lessons on St. Vincent. He never knew that he was a teacher until this program, and now his primary dedication is to his students.
“The kids call on me for lots of things. I am a mentor to 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 basketball games and playing for church events.” -Elvis Seales, Bequia Teaching ArtistThe Students
The students come from across the small island. Many have been in the program for years. As a group they are talented and dedicated. Currently some of the star students are: Breah, Tiffany, Blossom, Tyrese, Christian, Melody, Abigail, twins Jamie & Jason, Josh and his brother, Jeremy & his cousin, and others.
"Abigail king is a 7yr old student who has been playing pan for about a year now, she really enjoys playing it and I’m glad to see her fuel her energy into something positive. Before she kneels to pray at night she plays the pan. She wants to play all the different pans. SHE LOVES IT! Abby is so much more confident. It is the only thing she is doing that she really loves. My husband and I along with some other family members bought a pan for Abby and her pan skills improved 100% as a result. The pan cost $1800 + $25 for the sticks. Pans do not come tuned and thanks to the LEAF INTERNATIONAL they offered to pay for her pan to be tuned, we were very grateful for their offer and can’t thank them enough for their kind contribution.”
–Abby’s mom, Glynis King
Update: Abby is now 9 years old and as her dad says, " It is good for Abby to have Pan.” She is pictured here at 7yrs and at 9yrs
“Raphaela started pan class in November. She is much more focused since she started learning to play steel pans. She loves it- she does not ever want to miss a day of practice.”
-Raphaela’s Mom. Raphaela is 9 years old.
•2012| The island holiday concerts were excellent. The Kids on Pans played for hours upon hours. Elvis gets on the main drum kit, and starts playing “The Little Drummer Boy”, and all the kids automatically played along on pan and they sounded great! They begin to play one holiday song after another: “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”. “Holy Night”, and so on.
•2011| Kids on Pans held an “Elvis Seales & his Pupils” Pan Concert Sunday on Feb 27th & March 13th 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.
•2009| The School Principal was so inspired by the music program that she has applied & received a grant to complement the program and has committed to sustaining the program with mentors & teachers. The Deputy of the Grenadines will use this premier Steel Pan Music Program for youth to hopefully bring a new program: Pans Against Violence to the island. He recognized the intrinsic value of this program to the whole island. [note: 2011 update budget cuts happened and LI has stepped back in to help continue the program support.]
The tiny island of Bequia is located in the Grenadine Islands and has a unique, magical charm which is hard to find anywhere else in the Caribbean. With fewer than six thousand inhabitants, it feels like home from the moment you arrive; friendliness is the watchword, and the pace is relaxed and easy-going. A centuries-old dependence on inter-island shipping and trading has meant that Bequians have been eagerly welcoming visitors to their shores for generations. If you find yourself on this magical island, every Thursday night the JUMP UP happens at the Frangipani on the bay. Steel pan bands come into town and the dancing in the sand begins.