The Love City Pan Dragons Youth Steel Orchestra is holding its first fundraiser in hopes of financing a trip to Antigua. The first fundraiser will be a Christmas concert held on Dec. 23 at 5 pm at the St. John School of the Arts. The Antigua trip was initially planned for summer 2020, but due to the pandemic, the trip was pushed off. Currently, the band has raised $16,000 of the anticipated $50,000 needed for the trip.
The Love City Pan Dragons is a steel orchestra, and while the word “youth” is in the band’s name, they are open to players of all ages. Players practice for three hours on Friday afternoons and for three hours on Saturdays at the Cruz Bay pan yard. They learn by watching their instructor, Ikema Dyer, as he plays a short section of a song on each player’s respective pan, and then the players mimic the instructor’s movements to play the same notes. The players do not read music; instead, they practice each song in sections over and over and over again until the notes are committed to muscle memory.
Each “section,” or grouping of the same pans, has a section leader. Dax Chouiniere is the tenor section lead, Brooklyn Payne is the double second section lead, Seamus O’Donnell is the guitar section lead, and Kenzey O’Donnell is the tenor bass section lead. Section leads were chosen due to their dedication to attending practice regularly and putting in the work that it takes to learn the music.
Andrea Milam, the newly hired executive director for the band, said the trip will provide a cultural experience for the musicians while also performing competitively.
“Our players will perform in Antigua Panorama with the Cool & Smooth Ebonites, the home band of our instructor and arranger, Ikema Dyer, who’s an Antigua native,” said Milam. “There are many steel pan bands in Antigua, and competition is fierce. The trip will help our players see how their skills are relevant outside their small home island, and how steel pan is viewed on a different island. The experience will foster relationships between our band and the Ebonites, potentially opening doors to further experiences for our players and for members of the Ebonites.”
Being a part of the Love City Pan Dragons not only allows for the musicians to hone and perfect their musical talents but playing in the band also offers multiple benefits. The band offers an extremely low-cost (or free, based on need) extracurricular activity for children. In addition to the positive effects of learning music including boosting IQ, focus, and persistence, the players learn the benefit of working with others toward a common goal. When the band performs, the players realize the rewards of their hard work when they see how much the band and its music means to residents and visitors alike. Additionally, the players grow very close with one another due to the many hours they spend together in the pan yard. The band becomes like a family, providing an additional support system outside of the home to keep players on the right track.
As for the Dec. 23 fundraiser event, the Love City Pan Dragons will perform Christmas songs along with some other selections. Newly appointed president, Ronald Lee Jr. & Friends will perform as the opening act. Lee grew up in the Pan Dragons program and went on to study music at George Mason University under homegrown talent Victor Provost. Lee has returned to St. John and the Pan Dragons as a young mentor, instructor, and arranger, in addition to his new role as board president.
“Being part of the Pan Dragons as a child was one of the major inspirations that led me down the professional path I’m pursuing today,” said Lee. “Music is my passion and it’s a blessing to have come full circle now, and to lend my talents and leadership to the program where I got my start.”
The night will also feature complimentary passed apps and a cash bar. Those who attend can expect a joyful evening of music and holiday cheer. Tickets to the Christmas concert are $15 apiece and can be purchased by calling Milam at 340-690-2420 or by sending payment to @Lovecitypandragons on Venmo or [email protected] on PayPal. Guest name, email address, and phone number should be included with each ticket purchase. Donations are always welcome and can be made via Venmo or PayPal, or by check made out to Love City Pan Dragons mailed to PO Box 1537, St. John, VI 00831. Checks and cash can also be hand-delivered to Milam; however, people should call Milam to arrange hand-delivered payments. Love City Pan Dragons is a registered 501(c)(3) organization.