Local steelpan drum orchestra and its ‘De Panyard’ inspire underserved communities


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Hampton Roads organization is working to bring music to underserved communities.

The Mosaic Steel Orchestra is a 501(c)(3) organization that teaches adults and kids how to play steelpan drums.

It’s a dream that Dr. Anthony Hailey, its director, founder, and president, envisioned years ago.

“About 15 years ago, I took out a second mortgage on my home to buy these instruments because I was working and doing service in the community, but I wanted to see a deeper and greater change. So, over the past 10 to 12 years, we’ve been serving in neighborhoods here and in Portsmouth,” Hailey said.

The orchestra’s current home is currently at the intersection of Church and 27th Street in Norfolk. Hailey says the land belongs to the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

During the summer program, Hailey says about 40 kids come out learning how to play the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.

Hailey fell in love with the instrument after seeing the US Navy Steel Band in college and many of his students also fell in love after hearing the drums for the first time.

Elisha Jackson, who learned about the program from his cousin, says he originally thought the drums were pans because of the name.

“Then when I saw it I was like ‘wow! I should start playing this!’,” he said.

Jackson, who’s played for two years, says many people venture through ‘De Panyard’ and are excited to hear them playing.

“I love it when people come out and see how the pan sounds. They record it and bring their family and everything. It’s a good way to see people together when we play the pan,” he said.

Being together with other drummers is also what’s attracted 13-year-old Alcea Vibar to the program.

After being virtual for much of the school year, Vibar says it’s good to make friends at De Panyard and it’s a great place to let loose.

“You’re free. You get to play … socialize,’ she said.

The orchestra is also giving parents a chance to connect with their kids.

Dionne Copeland, who’s son plays, says many of the songs the band performs are from her generation.

“I find him listening to music in his earbuds. I didn’t catch that before. So, I actually showed him some of the music they were playing was from my era. He was in shock because he thought it was new but it’s old school, it’s old school,” she said.

Copeland says it’s also a great program because it gives kids something to do and there aren’t many organizations like that.

It’s something that Hailey is proud of, not only providing a different sort of culture for kids to learn about, but also because he says it’s the only De Panyard in the country.

The orchestra welcomes anyone to come out and here them perform.

“This is somewhere where anyone can come and hang out. Bring your picnic. Have your lunch, whatever. We have tables. Just enjoy community, a sense of community, pride in our youth culture and have a good time,” he said.

Hailey says De Panyard and the orchestra are in need of donations and volunteers and welcome anyone with any type of skills they can donate such as photography.

To learn more, click here.

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