Ask accomplished pannists where they learned to play their instruments and they would tell you that it was in their beloved panyards.
But now, at least for one group of would-be pannists, there are no panyards. They are staying at home to master the steel drums.,
Under the direction of veteran Trinidad-born steelband leader Earl La Pierre, this group of 18 students from the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) are learning to play the pans online.
“A first in the world of pan,” La Pierre proudly noted.
As Glenn Inanga, an assistant professor at UCCI explained, with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UCCI shifted to “online learning platforms for all their classes.”
And following an enquiry from Governor Martyn Roper (himself a student of La Pierre), the UCCI decided ” to extend the virtual learning opportunities to the steel pan students.”
They borrow the pans and take them home to use for their online classes ” in the comfort of their homes,” Inanga said.
But as La Pierre noted, teaching the students to play the instruments online is ” not without its problems.
“We cannot bring the big bass drums into people’s homes. So for the online classes,we are using the soprano pans, the alto pans and the cellos.”
” These smaller pans are easier to manage and we can put them in the bedrooms or the basements.”
Le Pierre also spoke of “internet problems.”
” Sometimes there is a delay with the internet from one player to the other. So when do you the count, everyone may not be starting exactly at the same time.”
But La Pierre noted that despite these problems, ” the students are excited about learning to play to pan onlne.”