It was technically break time at Summer Pan Camp on Tuesday, but two 9-year-olds remained standing over their unwieldy instruments, pansticks in hand.
The boys were determined to master the steel pan — part of the reason why they were signed up for the free Royal Virgin Islands Police Force camp.
But to assume the duo were novices would be inaccurate: One of the boys showcased the sticks he had borrowed from his mother before running through a jumble of notes, chords and songs.
According to Police Information Officer Diane Drayton, the two-week programme was created for kids to get involved with the community in a positive way.
“Music is a wonderful way of drawing kids into wholesome activities and is something they can get excited about,” Ms. Drayton said. “There are so many events that we have on island that would certainly use a nice steel pan band for their opening or for a selection.”
This is the first year police are hosting the camp, and they hope it will help bridge the gap between officers and the public.
Sergeant Tilda Henry is the coordinator for the event, while steel pan aficionado Lark Schuler — who estimates he has been playing the instrument for decades — is the instructor.
As for the steel pans themselves, dozens were loaned to the force by St. George’s Secondary School and St. George’s Episcopal Church Reverend Ian Rock.
The school is also being used a home base for the camp this week.
While half of the group practised playing the steel pan in one room, the other set of pre-teens sat in another, learning the lyrics to a D.A.R.E. song about resisting peer pressure.
“D: I won’t do drugs! A: I won’t have an attitude! R: I will respect myself! E: I will educate me!” they sang together.
Along with education about saying no to drugs and crime, the camp provides a range of other activities.
A volunteer for the programme, recent UVI graduate Kyra James, said she will help the kids make vision boards about what they think an ideal society and police force should look like.
“We all know that officers have a bad stigma attached to them. At least through my art segment, I’m aiming to find a way for them to challenge that assumption,” she said.
“I mean, I’m 21 years old — a lot of people my age don’t like police officers. So I know exactly what’s out there, and I know what’s wrong about what they’re thinking.”
When the camp ends next Thursday, officers hope some interested young people will even sign up to neighbourhood watch groups and get involved with community policing.
As for the main theme of the programme — steel pan expertise — Ms. Drayton plans to help a few of the newfound musicians join long-term bands.
“The hope is to generate some excitement, to try to keep the skills alive and pass it down to others who can appreciate it,” she said. “We’re hoping that with enough interest, with enough community support, it will be kept alive. A lot of times that’s all it is.”