Antonia’s “I love Learning Steelpan” Blog
I started playing with UFO through my daughter. I used to bring her along to the classes, and everyone was so friendly and encouraging that I should join, that I eventually picked up some sticks and started to play for the first time ever on a double second pan. I loved it instantly! It has been a brilliant thing to do with my daughter, she is very musical, but getting her to play and practice an instrument was an uphill battle. Once I got involved with UFO, my enthusiasm kept us coming, and she is so glad she did not give up. This year she gained a music scholarship to a school that I know was a direct result of her playing in the band, her ability to pick up a tune and to remember and repeat complex rhythms are definitely due to the practice that being in a band requires. It has also given her an appreciation of what hard work, application and dedication can produce. It is a bit of a distance for us to get to the pan yard, and in winter waiting at the bus stop can feel like a trial, but here we are, starting to feel the slow and exciting build up to carnival again, and it has been so, so worthwhile. These are experiences we are sharing now that we will look back on for the rest of our lives and appreciate. It’s great to have something to share with your child that is such a focus of enjoyment and bridges the generation gap.
Long live UFO! I have loved playing with UFO steel band. I have been doing it for over a year now, and can really begin to see how much I have improved. I am finding my way around the pan more easily, and picking up tunes much quicker. I have begun to have an appreciation of the depth of a tune and how it is put together. I also think that learning by ear is extremely beneficial, I can really feel a different part of my brain being exercised, and the need to memorise tunes, rhythms and the psycho motor skills are great mental exercise. I love the fact that my secret inner performer is getting an airing! I was always good at music and drama at school, but I have never done anything related to those in my job, and it is a facet of my personality that I had resigned myself to leaving gathering dust in a recess somewhere. Steel pan has really given me a new lease of life, it has given me a spring in my step, and the means to shake off the drudgery that life and earning a living can impose unless you are careful. I am so grateful to have found UFO, it is such a brilliant means to stepping outside the daily grind, and opening the door to sunshine and uplift. UFO is such a great eclectic group of people. There real bond the group has is a desire to be part of music making, there is no feeling that anyone belongs any more than anyone else, we are all there for the same reason, and I love the fact that this speaks louder to the group than any other form of identification.
Update December 2017
Thanks to UFO winning funding from Arts Council of England and other sponsors, I am now into my 4th year playing pan, and each year brings new things. I have found that my musicianship continues to improve palpably and this brings a real thrill and sense of achievement. I continuously play with the idea of getting a set of pans of my own so that I can really work on technique in my spare time and accelerate the rate of learning. However, for the moment this is outside my budget and home storage space!
As a band we have also improved significantly, and the moments where we blend our sound with real precision and beauty are so exhilarating. The depths and breadth of the musical landscape that pan offers is huge, and we are still early in the journey around it.
Collaborating with St Michael’s brought some highly experienced players alongside, and having a few more highly experiences musicians among us for a while changed our performance measurably. It was a real privilege to play alongside them, they helped us to become tighter rhythmically and I felt they were very instrumental in assisting us in raising our game. Jason creates more complex and challenging parts for us as we progress, and there are times where we are all transported by the sound that emerges. I feel so lucky to be part of this lovely group of people, making music and exercising this facet of me that I never thought I would find an outlet for.