Steelpan Jam with Suzette (York Woods District Blog)

I was recently interviewed by Diana, a librarian from York Woods Library which is also a host of the Culture Days festival.

Here's a sneak peak of what was discussed.

D!ana: How did you first get into steelpan?

Suzette: A friend of mine, Monifa Colthurst, was playing with Toronto's oldest steel band, Afropan, and invited me to a rehearsal. At the time I was a teenager on summer break and the band was rehearsing every evening preparing for the annual Caribbean parade, Caribana. I found myself attending their rehearsal quite often as the music was infectious. The environment was so friendly, everyone was happy to be there and made me feel welcome.

D: What was it that really got you hooked and inspired you to teach steel pan?

S: Seeing that the steelpan was limitless to the genres of music that could be played excited me. It is often thought that because the steelpan was birthed in the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, Calypso and Reggae were the only types of music played. Many people are often surprised when they hear a pannist playing Classical, Jazz, R&B and even cultural songs. My inspiration to teach came from my enjoyment of learning about the evolution of the steelpan. I was in disbelief when learning about the early struggles those playing it had to face. At the time of its inception, the steelpan was not revered. The early pioneers were looked down upon as "Bad Johns" (trouble makers or bulllies). Parents did not allow their children to associate with anyone that was involved with this instrument. I often meet adults that wanted to play the steelpan as a child but were not allowed. Now, they get a second chance to make it happen.

D: What was one of your most memorable moment, experience or performance with steelpan?

S: My most memorable experience was going to Trinidad & Tobago for my first Panorama, the mecca of the annual steelpan competition. Prior to bands going on stage (which can consist to up to 100 plus players), they rehearse on the track (area outside of the stadium). The renowned steelband Phase II was performing and I was in the middle of the orchestra while they rehearsed their song. It was SPECTACULAR – one of the most magical experiences ever.

D: What is your favourite song to play?

S: Chayew Ale by Patsy Geremy, it puts me in a happy place.

D: If you could perform with any musician in the world (steel pan or not, currently living or not :) who would you like to perform with?

S: Definitely Alicia Keys, because she is a talented musician who really engages her audience and uses her fame to help children and families that are in need through the organization "Keep a Child Alive". I respect her work as well as well as her humanitarian efforts.

Thank you Suzette for the mini interview!

Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to check out one of Toronto’s most talented steel pannist!

The workshop is FREE and open to everyone. No registration required, however those who want to participate on the instruments (adults and children ages 7 and up) are required to register.

Want to learn more?

The Toronto Public Library has great steel pan books, CDs and DVDs!

For more information about Suzette, please visit and

For a listing of the Culture Days Programs at the Toronto Public Library, visit

For more information about Culture Days and the different activities, visit