Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

 

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Mia Morgan - London, UK

“I love pan because of the way it makes me feel when I play and listen. Its pure vibes. In addition to this, the relationships and friends I’ve made through pan are really something special and totally irreplaceable. Pan has opened up a whole new world and a hidden confidence in me, and I don’t know where I’d be without that.” 

Pan has played and continues to have, a profound impact in the growth and development of Mia Morgan. Her intensity, joy and passion for the instrument leap out at you.  Moreover this young lady’s positive development through her personal challenges moving from youth to young adult with pan, demonstrates the power of the art form on the human spirit and condition.  In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks -  Mia Morgan shares her feelings of self fulfillment, experiences, and insight into the Steelband music art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

When Steel Talks Women Logo

WST - “Tell us about yourself; who is Mia Morgan?”

Mia M. - “I am 19 years old. I work in schools teaching pan and a music studio in London. With Endurance Steel Orchestra I mainly play 3-pan but I also play double seconds. I am the middle section leader and vice captain at Endurance. I have been playing with Endurance since 2013. My hobbies include music, aviation and football. In the near future I’d like to start arranging a bit for Endurance and also work in more schools to help bring up the next generation of panists.”


WST - “How were you first introduced to the steelpan instrument and art-form?”

Mia M. - “I was introduced to pan in primary school after getting into the club in I think year 5. I was very excited to have been picked along with a few others out of a lot of other students in my class who tried to get in.”


WST - “What made you fall in love with the instrument and its music?”

Mia M. - “I love pan because of the way it makes me feel when I play and listen. It’s pure vibes. In addition to this, the relationships and friends I’ve made through pan are really something special and totally irreplaceable. Pan has opened up a whole new world and a hidden confidence in me and I don’t know where I’d be without that.”


Mia Morgan
Mia Morgan

WST - “You are a proud member of Endurance Steel Orchestra in the UK, in addition to being one of its captains - talk about this experience through the years?”

Mia M. - “At Endurance I have experienced so much. From making new friendships to seeing new places I’ve never been to before. We have performed in so many different places and they’ve all got different memories. As much as we are a family, we do have our moments and a bit of argumentative banter, but in the end we all end up laughing. Being accepted into this band was a real blessing.”


WST - “As one of Endurance’s captains, what is the greatest challenge you face in this specific role?”

Mia M. - “I’ve not been a captain for long but what I think I’ll struggle with is composure and decorum. I have a loud and comical personality, so seriousness at the right time is challenging. But I’m grown so I think I’ll adapt to the role, as over the years I’ve grown up a lot.”


WST - “Outside of Panorama, share what the performance opportunities and experiences are like for Endurance during the year?”

Mia M. - “During the year Endurance strives to do as many performances as possible. We usually have around four performances a month in the winter and many more in the summer. We also perform at some big events such as the marathon, flagz events, box park and many more. As well as performance opportunities we are taught to teach workshops, at schools, and are also given the chance to arrange.”


WST - “Give some insight into the orchestra’s repertoire?”

Mia M. - “At Endurance we play a wide variety of music from many different backgrounds. From old to current and Soca to classical. You name it, we play it. We even have themed sets such as our most recent, the Stevie Wonder set. We also have a recent pop set including the latest pop tunes such as "Finesse" by Bruno Mars and "Sorry" by Justin Beiber. We cater for all audiences.”


WST - “Talk about Endurance’s relationship with the community where the band calls home?”

Mia M. - “Endurance is very well known in our community and has a great relationship with a lot of people. We do a lot for our area and the people inside so I think we are a very respected band. We have gained a lot of following from our local busks, and also our supporters sharing and boosting our social media pages. Our home is south London, the best part of London!! And that will never change.”


WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Mia M. - “Panorama is a competition as well as a show broadcasting the very best of each band that enters has to show. It’s also a time of year where players can come together as one to celebrate pan and have a good time. (After results that is.)”


WST - “Being female, were you ever cautioned or perhaps dissuaded in any way, from becoming involved in the steelband art form?”

Mia M. - “In secondary school I wanted to play bass at one point but other students said “But you’re a girl.” In the end I played bass anyways but didn’t really enjoy it so moved back to double seconds. Other than that I haven’t had any issues regarding my gender.”


WST - “Do any of your family members play pan?”

Mia M. - “One of my uncles used to play and teach. Although there are a lot of musicians in the family, other than me no one plays steel pan. Hopefully soon that will change as the younger cousins are getting older now.”


WST - “What does your extended family think of your involvement with the steelband art form?”

Mia M. - “At first my family was very supportive as it was something to focus on and keep me out of trouble. Then for a while after they got concerned as I became very committed and would literally drop any plans - to play pan. Even school work!! Now I’m older and achieving more out of pan, the support is back. I have achieved a lot and [am] now teaching in schools in the Croydon area. My family is extremely proud of me and is forever supportive.”


WST - “Some people are still vague about the steel pan instrument, what it is, and even more so, the concept of a full-size Panorama orchestra. Are there still times you encounter co-workers or friends, people in general - to whom you have to explain the steel band art form?”

Mia M. - “Yes. All of the time. Having to explain it to friends and even family is difficult and sometimes even frustrating getting them to understand. I teach steel pan in schools and even explaining things at work can be difficult sometimes. We need to start educating more!!”


Mia Morgan (center)
Mia Morgan

WST - “What keeps your passion for pan going?”

Mia M. - “Steel pan changed my life. Just thinking about who I was before steel pan is enough to keep me going. But more importantly it’s my band. They’re family, they kept me going. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for any of them. I’ve been taught so much by Endurance and will do anything to keep it going.”


WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to pan?”

Mia M. - “Something I’ll never forget is when I was awarded ‘Arrangers Inspiration’ in 2016. It’s an award that is given once a year and I never thought I’d get it. At the time I was speechless and had no words, but as soon as I got off stage all I felt was love. I was so happy. Even now I’m struggling to describe it. All I can really say is a big ‘Thank you’ to Marlon. He knows how much he means to me and has truly forever been there.”


WST - “What about the Pan fraternity do you find most disappointing?”

Mia M. - “Sometimes at events/competitions the atmosphere becomes a little tense. And it’s every band for themselves. But it’s like, "Yesterday we were friends so why are you acting up because we are wearing different T shirts?" We play pan and we are a family. Sometimes we just need to show it a little bit more.”


WST - “Do you think the steelband community and its musicians are well-regarded/respected in the UK?”

Mia M. - “In some aspects I think we are respected. And some not. For example even just finding a place to practice is difficult because the authorities just see us as a noise nuisance. But from my experience being at Endurance, the community is important and has a surprising amount of power if you use it in the right place. If you have a supportive community around you, there will always be happiness and respect.”


WST - “What is your vision for Pan in the UK a decade from now?”

Mia M. - “Something I feel strongly about is the next generation. Steel pan needs to be recognised so much more than it is now. I want to get steel pan on the teaching curriculum in the UK. If that’s not possible, I want to get pan in as many schools as possible to bring up the next generation of panists. This includes teaching today’s generation, to teach the new generation. Young people are important. There’s so much unrecognised talent that we aren’t using, it just needs to be unlocked and shown to the world.”


Mia Morgan
Mia Morgan

WST - “If you could change one thing about pan what would that be?”

Mia M. - “The price. Not just the price of the instruments but the price of maintenance and accessories. I fully understand how much work goes into making and tuning pans but for small bands it’s hard to keep nice pans nice, and to even buy new ones when you have a rehearsal space and a van to get to and from gigs to pay for. We’re literally paying to make money. But due to my understanding of the making and maintenance I don’t really have a solution for that one. We’ve just got to work hard and have a fantastic time. After all, we are called Endurance!! When you work hard and stay positive, anything and everything will happen.”


WST - “What advice would you give to young and upcoming females who would like to follow in your footsteps as a female steelpan musician?”

Mia M. - “I’d say that no matter what happens, just keep your head up and trust your peers. Always put in 100% and remember to be yourself. This community is full of many different personalities and everyone’s accepted. Two tips: Don’t wear white in the pan yard, it always ends in tears and secondly, wear a good bra ladies!! Trust me, it’s essential.”


WST - “After playing Pan for some time, several young adults eventually cease playing. Do you have any plans in this regard?”

Mia M. - “No way, I have way too many goals to be thinking about quitting pan. Pan has given me too much for me to leave now. I’ve got sooo much to give back and so many ideas to try out. Being an adult changes nothing other than the fact I can now teach in schools and share my talent to other youths.”


WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Mia M. - “Just to tell all of the other panists out there to remember that we are all family no matter what happens. We love and strive for the same things and shouldn’t let anything come between us. Peace and love xx Miz.”


photos provided by Mia Morgan




 
   Mia Morgan performs with Endurance Steel Orchestra  during the orchestra’s 2017 UK Panorama Performance




Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories

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