Afropan Mission Statement
–To promote the interest in and appreciation of steelband music
–To use steelband music as a medium to develop “life skills” among youth learners
–To develop collaborative programs and partnerships with other community groups interested in steelband art and culture.
–To encourage community integration and collaboration in music with youth, adults and seniors
The Afropan Steelband “the people’s band” is Toronto’s oldest and most successful steelband. The pioneers of Afropan, an intimate group of pannists from Trinidad, got together in Toronto as early as 1970. It was not, however, until 1973 as “Harriet Tubman Survivors” that the Afropan Steelband was formally founded. Since 1973 Afropan, under the leadership of Earl La Pierre Sr., has won the Best Playing Steelband Competition at the Caribana Festival a total of 28 times, and has ranked in the top three on all other occassions. In 1987 Afropan had the unique distinction of winning the “Best Overall Band” participating in the Caribana Parade that year. Afropan is a registered Non-Profit Organization.
Afropan has acquired the reputation, over the years, of being the “Peoples’ band” at the Parade. Its early beginnings in the 1970’s were with the Harriet Tubman Centre in Toronto. Its players, at that time, were young people of Afro-Caribbean descent. Its early affiliation with the Tubman Centre has influenced Afropan’s leadership in having community service as a guiding principle of the organization. A primary activity of the band has been to offer instructional classes in the art of playing the pan among Canadians of non-Afro-Caribbean descent. Today the enrollment in the instructional classes ranges from about eighty to one hundred students per year. A class of learners usually reflects the diversity of the population of Toronto and for the past two years about fifty percent of the enrollees was female.
From 1975 to 1999 Afropan was located at 44 St George Street on the University of Toronto downtown campus and designated as a community campus group. In 2000 Afropan moved to the Toronto Fire Academy, from there we moved to Lamport Stadium where we spent 5 years and now we call the base of Jefferson Ave. home for our summer rehearsals.
The orchestra’s summer practice sessions attracts thousands of Torontonians in the weeks prior to the Caribana Festival, which has been held annually on the first weekend of August since Canada’s Centennial year in 1967. Many Canadians have learned to play the steelpan by taking instructional classes with Afropan. Afropan’s summer rehearsal sessions and its Annual “Blocko”, one week before the Parade, have become an annual tourist attraction of the City of Toronto. Its location is a stopping point for tourist buses during the summer.
Its pan players are reflective of the diversity of Toronto’s multicultural population. In its early years, the core of its players were people of Afro-Caribbean descent. Today, more than sixty percent of the enrollees in the instructional classes, offered by Afropan to learn to play the steel pan, are female and, in addition, there is a significant increase in the participation of people from non Afro-Caribbean descent in the orchestra.
The band’s Captain and Manager is Earl La Pierre Jr., a.k.a. the “Extraordinary Steel Pannist’ could be compared to an orchestra conductor, leading the members to produce a symphony of service “For the People”. Afropan has a core group of approximately 25 players. They play during the year at functions such as university activities, concerts with other steelbands, community-sponsored activities, cultural shows, Black History Month celebrations and the Mississauga Santa Claus Parade. For the annual Caribana Festival in Toronto, as many as 80 to 100 pan players participate in the parade. Many alumni return to assist and participate in the Caribana parade. Another feature of the band is that it is intergenerational with grandparents, parents and their children, brothers, sisters and cousins all participating actively.
AN AFROPAN EVENT IS A FAMILY AFFAIR.