Saint Vincent & the Grenadines | Founded 2006 | 24+ Youth Served
“How many kids on this island are learning the local steel pan tradition?,” is the question LEAF Founder and Executive Director, Jennifer Pickering, asked the principal of the local community school in Bequia. The answer, “one, and it is the governor’s daughter.” The following week was spent finding local musicians who were willing to be a teaching artist, and raising funds to get steel pans made in nearby Trinidad. With this, LEAF International was born.
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.
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The program brought on a new teaching artist, Akeem Hannaway and appointed young mentors to co-led.
January: 16 kids represented “Kids on Pan” at the annual Bequia Music Festival
January: The annual Bequia Music Fest which took place January 18-21, featured the Kids on Pan on Sunday evening’s program. Even with a reduced contingent the group performed commendably.
A longtime island dream comes to life & it’s so cute! LEAF – Bequia Kids On Pan have their own music center. Parent Coordinator, Levi Walker, brought this to reality. Let the pans play!
March: Official Cultural Center opening!
July & August: Bequia joins LEAF for the 3rd annual LEAF Downtown and LEAF Arts & Park camp.
Youth from LEAF International Bequia taught a 5-day residency at Hall Fletcher Elementary school. In addition to the residency, the group enjoyed their first time experience of busking in downtown Asheville and a grand finale performance at the Orange Peel.
February: the ‘Kids on Pans’ grows tremendously: enrollment doubles from 12 to 24, with 12 more on the waiting list! After a successful fundraising campaign for more instruments and expanding class times, those students on the waitlist are now in ‘Kids on Pans’ classes. Starting at the beginning of 2015, there are 3 classes with 36 students!
August: Bequia’s local government recognized the cultural importance and success of the LEAF International ‘Kids on Pans’ program, and donated an old school building to LEAF International. With renovations soon underway, the ‘Kids on Pans’ will have their own permanent home, rehearsal space, and cultural center!
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.
The program doubles in size, and there is even a waitlist.
Kids on Pans begin learning from new teachers, Errol. THANK YOU to Elvis for all of the years of amazing pan instruction for the kids!
Kids on Pans performed at October LEAF Festival!
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.
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
Akeem Hannaway is a dedicated young man who has been involved in music and cultural arts from a very early age. The steel pan is his favorite instrument and he aspires to become a Steel Pan Director and Arranger. Akeem is very passionate about cultural arts and he is active in several community-based events and programs geared toward heightening awareness in a steel pan and empowering youths through music.
Akeem works as a maintenance engineer, laborer, and heavy-duty machinery operator. The greater part of his time otherwise is spent playing and teaching steel pan music. He has a part-time contract to teach pan music at Bishops College, a local secondary school on mainland St. Vincent.
He has been playing with the Starlift Steel Orchestra; a premier steel band is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, since 2004. He plays with this orchestra locally and has traveled to Barbados, Trinidad, USA, and the UK for performances. He has also performed with several steel bands locally and regionally between 2014 and 2017.
One student 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. Her parents bought a pan for her 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 LEAF members helped to pay for her pan to be tuned. It’s a gift to watch her grow up through the LEAF International Bequia program.