Crispus Attucks Cultural Center in Norfolk is Mosaic Steel Orchestra’s home. It’s where they practice. It’s where their steel drums are kept when they’re not being played. It’s where their board meets. It’s where Mosaic’s heart is.
Mosaic founder Anthony Hailey realized that not only is the Attucks the band’s home, the park just outside the door is their panyard; steel drums are known as steelpans and a panyard is the steel band’s physical home.
“Around the world, panyards are places of community; safe havens for youth to freely express themselves,” said Hailey. “The panyard is a gathering place for supporters and a performance venue for the band.”
Drawn by the sound of steel drums, the crowd gathers to listen to Mosaic Steel Orchestra play in their panyard outside Crispus Attucks Cultural Center in Norfolk. Photo courtesy of Mosaic Steel Orchestra.
Earlier this month, Mosaic held its first Attucks panyard performance for the neighborhood – the first of many more to come after they return from Trinidad, where the youth orchestra has been invited to compete at the Inaugural International Conference and Panorama in Port of Spain, Trinidad on August 9th.
The 20 steel pan musicians in Mosaic’s youth orchestra are from 12 different schools in Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, and this is their first competition on the international stage. Mosaic received a grant from the U.S. Embassy to help defray travel costs.
“This is the first time many of these students have ever traveled beyond Hampton Roads,” said Hailey. “This trip is as much about the cultural experience and personal growth that comes from traveling as it is about the competition.”
The International Panorama competition will feature 30 steel bands from Europe, North American, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago.
Destiney Moyler, Taylor Simon, Daniel Kiracofe, and William Boudouris (front row left to right) of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake respectively, will compete at the International Conference and Panorama in Trinidad this August. Photo courtesy of Mosaic Steel Orchestra.
Bands will play an 8-minute rendition of a calypso of their choice for the judges.
Mosaic Steel Orchestra will perform “Pan In Ah Rage” by Jit Samaroo, a famous Trinidadian arranger. This piece was last performed at the Panorama in 1996 and Hailey chose this selection because he has long admired Jit’s arrangement style and it’s a piece Mosaic musicians know and play very well.
Trinidad has more than 100 steel bands and across the world there are hundreds more — playing everywhere from traditional neighborhood panyards to prestigious concert halls.
Mosaic Steel Orchestra founder Anthony Hailey welcomes the neighborhood to the band’s first panyard performance on Saturday, June 13 outside Crispus Attucks Cultural Center in Norfolk. Photo courtesy of Mosaic Steel Orchestra.
Hailey gives Mosaic’s musicians the experience of playing in a wide variety of settings. From performing live on TV, to the 24th Street Seaside Palladium in Virginia Beach, to the massive Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church in Norfolk.
He founded Mosaic Steel Orchestra 8 years ago as a way to give young people in Hampton Roads a way to build their self-confidence through music.
“My God given gifts – the love for music and a youthful spirit – inspired me to start Mosaic Steel Orchestra,” Hailey continued. “As a youth I was passionate about music and was always leading a band — teaching everyone how to play their parts — but we lacked good instruments. At a young age I also discovered that babies loved me. If anyone in the family had need to stop a baby from crying they would call me in to coddle it. For me, the novelty soon wore off, but later in life I realized this gift had a purpose. Basically, I combined my gifts with a need that I faced during my youth and Mosaic is the product.”
Zakiyah Edmons-Skills (center) of Virginia Beach is part of the youth ensemble traveling to Trinidad in August. Photo courtesy of Mosaic Steel Orchestra.
Hailey can’t think of a greater symbol of Mosaic band members’ success in their personal and musical lives than to be invited to Trinidad not just to compete but to see where their instruments are made and experience traveling in another country. When they’re not competing, the musicians will experience traditional Trinidadian panyards and tour the country where steel drums were first invented, fashioned from steel oil drums.
Just like classical orchestras rely on notes from tenor to bass, Mosaic Steel Orchestra’s pans range from high to low, creating a classic Caribbean sound.
When they get back from Trinidad, Mosaic will perform at the Virginia Caribfest and Hailey says they will bring a piece of Trinidad with them when they do. “They are going to be a whole different band when they return.”
A band with their own panyard where they can play with pride.
For more on MSO, here is their website.