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Steel Pan Jamboree Draws Healthy Crowd

April 25, 2006 — The 2006 Steel Pan Jamboree could hardly contain itself within the confines of Lionel Roberts Stadium Sunday night. For fans of the pan, there was more than one reason to celebrate. The Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra was celebrating its 25th anniversary and the fans were returning to the stands after a couple of years of lost enthusiasm.
For those who came, there were many musical rewards. Sixteen bands, up from 10 in the recent past, entertained from 5 p.m. until late, but not late enough to discourage student players from getting up for school on Monday. Several adult trainers, jamboree committee members and spectators said every band showed improvements in the way they played, the arrangements of their music and their overall performances.
"I have been here for the past five years. The pan level is rising every year and it's nice to know, coming from Trinidad and seeing all the youths playing the steel pan," said Darren Lawrence, director of two participating bands. "I hope they keep it up and they will see that steel pan is music."
Lawrence was cheerfully packing away pans as a stage change spilled happy chaos across the floor. Students and teachers rolled steel drums out of position while new band crews flung down carpeting to anchor their drum sets. The St. Thomas All-Stars, Antilles Steel Hurricanes, Ulla Muller Panatics, Joseph Gomez Pan Busters, Sibilly Sun Rays, Love City Pan Dragons and Bovoni Weed and Seed Pan Blasters played in the first round.
Jamboree Committee Chairman Eduardo Corneiro said Addelita Cancryn Junior High School sent a last-minute entry as well. "Cancryn just got a band together just in time this week. We had to squeeze them in on the program but we got them in there," he said.
Committee member Daphne Davis-O'Neal said she thought the growing crowds were a result of a change in the Carnival schedule. "Because they have taken away all of the other things that were competing with this — the boat races and the coronations," she said.
They also took away the ticket price for the Steel Pan Jamboree, instituted as an experiment in the late 1990s and revoked three or four years later. The crowds started to disappear around then. There were some years that the entire crowd at the jamboree filled two rows of portable folding chairs they brought along with them and lined up on the field.
But that's starting to change again, with families and some tourists coming back to check out the fete.
"I have never been to a panorama in Trinidad, even though my uncle is an arranger for the Desperados" said visitor Christopher Trancoso from the town of Arema, who said he enjoyed what he saw at the Lionel Roberts Stadium.
His friend, Gwen Lawrence, is also the wife of Love City Pan Dragons Director Samuel Lawrence. As they limed on the field, watching the performance, she said, "It's very good, they have improved a lot. I think they have improved this year. The arrangers, in terms of the effort they've put into the kids."
The highlight of the night came when a double-decker trolley train with flashing holiday lights bobbed into the middle of the field bearing 160 jubilant members of the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra. The band, sponsored by the Superior Court, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
"For us, this is where we kick off the celebration, right here and now going up until the end of December," said director John Hodge. "This is representative of one of the first Carnivals we went in."
Hodge said the Rising Stars would celebrate in a big way on the two parade days, coming up later this week, with an extra large troupe, king and queen of the band and perhaps a few surprises.
Jamboree night wrapped up with performances by the Bertha C. Boschulte Burning Blazers, the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Devil Rays, the Angels of Steel from Sts. Peter and Paul School, the Charlotte Amalie High School Mellow Hawks, Pan In Motion and Phoenix Sounds.
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