Background: The Steel Pan Project was started as a 2013 initiative between RESTORE Belize and NICH with generous funding from UNICEF. It uses the steel pan as a tool for social outreach with free lessons offered to children and youths from socially vulnerable populations in their community.
Within a year of the project’s inception, the students who showed a high degree of skill, discipline, and dedication joined a few long-time pannists in the creation of the Pandemonium Steel Band whose tag line is “Beat A Pan, NOT A Man.”
Pandemonium Steel Band: The group has since made a name for itself as vivacious, enthusiastic, and skilled, with its members having a fresh take on steel pan music. Over 50 students have benefited from this programme, and Pandemonium is featured annually at Pan Yaad in September, their Christmas Concert in December, the Street Arts Festival in February, and the Jazz Fest in June among other smaller events.
Practice Sessions: The group is divided into junior and senior sections, and members meet two to three times a week for practice. While the students are taught how to read, play, and perform music, life skills and child protection sessions are also included with support of their parents.
Project Aims: This project is in line with each partners’ mission of empowerment. NICH’s Institute of Creative Arts aims to be the catalyst for creative, artistic and professional excellence in Belize. In fulfillment of this mission NICH provides musical education and artistic leadership to the Pandemonium Steel Band.
Its partner in this programme, RESTORE Belize provides logistic support and coordination as it is mandated to promote greater collaboration between agencies and to mobilize resources to contribute to a culture of peace through multi-sectoral and citizen-centered action.
UNICEF advocates for the protection of children’s rights to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. This steel pan project does exactly that by providing students with a positive after-school activity that gives them the opportunity to reach their musical potential.
Documentation: In 2015, UNICEF featured the Steel Pan Project in a comprehensive documentary which can be accessed here. In 2018, the Government Press Office did an updated feature on the band, its members, and its progress. This mini documentary can be accessed here.