Love City Pan Dragons

Love City Pan Dragons CD
Love City Pan Dragons CD

St. John, or "Love City" to our Caribbean neighbors, is often called the best kept secret in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Much of our Manhattan-sized island is protected from development by the V.I. National Park, but we still have room for a population of 9,000 residents and over 100,000 visitors a year.

The mission of the Love City Pan Dragons Youth Steel Orchestra is:

»  To provide a healthy positive extracurricular cultural experience for St. John students from elementary through high school;

»  To enhance the educational experience of Virgin Islands young people by promoting qualities and skills, through the learning and performance of steel band music, that will assist them in their everyday scholastic settings;

»  To serve as a cultural force in the Virgin Islands community.

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The Love City Pan Dragons Youth Steel Orchestra evolved from a teen drug and pregnancy prevention after-school program begun over fifteen years ago. In 1998 a beginner band for younger children, the Baby Dragons, was added. Baby Dragons moved up to the Pan Dragons as they gained expertise and as older players moved on to work, school commitments and graduation. After a ten-year hiatus, interest among 5-7 year olds briefly revived the Baby Dragons, who debuted their first tune in May 2011 at St. Thomas Panorama. Some players from that 'batch' are now Pan Dragons.

2010 Westin Christmas Concert The Pan Dragons number 25 at present, with members aged 8-17. Several have played nearly half their lives in the Pan Dragons, and have developed into poised, musically skilled young people with a strong sense of pride in the band, their music, and the high regard in which the band is held throughout the Virgin Islands. The orchestra includes six sections, giving the sound incredible richness and complexity. The 'voices' range from Tenor (the soprano, or single lead pan, with 25-28 notes on each pan), to Bass, with each player surrounded by six full size drums holding three notes each. The Pan Dragons repertoire includes music from 40's pop and light classics to the latest calypsoes. Visitors to St. John will find both bands practicing in turn with instructor Shomari Dyer and arranger Marlon "Ikema" Dyer on Friday and Saturday afternoons behind our green doors at the Youth Center across the street from the Cruz Bay fire station, and are welcome to stop in and listen.

The band is thrilled and grateful to be developing a growing cadre of fans who have generously posted You Tube clips of our performances for all to enjoy. Thanks especially to former Pan Dragon mom Shatik Stephens, "St John Jason" and "Thorhund" from St. Croix!
Here's where we are, with directions from New York, Chicago, Miami and San Juan: >>>>>

Where is St John


The Pan Dragons have a busy regular schedule, with annual appearances on all three major Virgin Islands.
February starts off with travel to the St. Croix Agriculture and Cultural Fair for multiple performances, followed closely by playing at the start of St. John's annual 8 Tuff Miles road race, and an appearance at the St. John Arts Festival.
April brings
St. Thomas Carnival Panorama and Children's Parade, followed in June and July by St. John's own Panorama, Food Fair, Opening of Festival Village and Fourth of July Parade.

Pan Dragons celebrate 2010 St Thomas performanceSamuel Lawrence conducts St. Thomas 2010
                      Pan Dragons go wild at 2010 St. Thomas Panorama, led by arranger Samuel Lawrence
                                                                       Virgin Islands Daily News photos

The band's summer introductory steel band camp is capped off by a recital and incorporation of the most promising, commited new players into the Pan Dragons in our bursting-at-the-seams panyard.

Each fall is devoted to bringing new members up to speed with the band repertoire and preparing holiday music.

The Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner (a sumptuous buffet with banquet seating under the big trees in Franklin Powell Park by the ferry dock) kicks off winter festivities, followed by the annual Christmas concert in the
Westin Resort St. John ballroom and the Kwanzaa celebration in Cruz Bay, and finishing the year with the band's ensemble greeting guest arrivals at the Westin's dock throughout the holidays.


In between regular events, the Pan Dragons manage to fit in, as a whole band or ensemble, weddings, conferences, parties, and numerous community events and occasions. The band also hosts and performs for occasional old-time fish fries in the park in Cruz Bay, to help raise funds for operations and special projects.

Over the years, the Pan Dragons have played a part in several unique events; here's a tiny sample:

2001: 1st Annual British Virgin Islands Music Festival
2001: Calypso Show fundraiser, featuring international stars 
Singing Sandra, Black Stalin and De Hunter, and local calypso King Whadablee
2002: Band trip to Trinidad, home of steel pan
2003: Westin Resort, major corporate convention reception
2004: March, performance on circumnavigating residential cruise ship,
The World

PanDragons conquer World
Aboard The World, March 11, 2004              photo by Oswin Sewer

2004: November, release of first CD
2004: December, fundraiser at
Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort featuring internationally acclaimed a cappella women's group, Sweet Honey in the Rock
2005: October, International Submerged Lands Management Conference reception
2005: November, Antigua
Moods of Pan Festival "Five Alive" competition, with pan bands from all over the Caribbean

Antigua Moods of Pan players and chaperones
Pan Dragons meet Desperadoes, Antigua 2005

Antigua, November 2005 - players and chaperones  

    Pan Dragons relax in Antigua with
Trinidad's WITCO Desperadoes

2006: Virgin Islands National Park 50th Anniversary celebration
2006: November, release of second CD
2006: 1st St. John Christmas Music Festival Parade
2006: 1st performance at St. Thomas annual Miracle on Main Street
2007: 7th Annual BVI Music Festival
2007: Wagapalooza Animal Care Center Benefit
2007: Opening of Estate Concordia Ecoresort's Cafe Concordia
Gifft Hill School's first on-campus graduation

Neko October 2006
The band was saddened in May 2010 by the sudden loss of long-time tenor bassman Nekwan Sprauve, who had fought sickle cell disease throughout his 15 years to play steel pan and basketball, his two loves. An ensemble of Pan Dragons played for his memorial service, and his school,
Gifft Hill School, has established a scholarship and built a basketball half-court in his honor. His younger brother continues to dance behind his tenor pan; his older sister, now in college, played double second. His littlest brother, already showing the family love and gift for pan, is now a Baby Dragon, following Neko on tenor bass.


Costs for a steel band are very high. The small pool of truly gifted instructors, musical arrangers, and tuners (who typically make, as well as tune, pans) is in ever greater demand as the popularity of steel pan has blossomed worldwide. The best come from the home of steel pan, Trinidad. Steel drums are individually handmade, formed with hammers and chisels, cured by fire, then tuned with more hammers, chromed or painted, then tuned a final time, usually with (the one high-tech touch) a strobe. The unique sound comes from overtones in each note which must also be tuned to sweeten the sound. The tuner must 'blend' not only the individual notes on each pan, but all the pans in an orchestra to give them the same tonal quality. The nature of playing them (hitting them with rubber-tipped sticks!) means the tuner must return with his hammers and strobes for regular retuning. Another continuing cost is uniforms to suit the most casual to formal engagements. And travel with such bulky and heavy musical instruments, not to mention children and chaperones, rivals that of a major rock band in cost and complexity.

Our long-standing dream of replacing the band's worn-out instruments was fulfilled in December, 2005 by a major donation from Trust Asset Management LLP, a St. Thomas-based global investments management services firm chaired by S. Donald Sussman, who is committed to securing the future through support of youth and education. Made to order by renowned Desperadoes tuner Desmond "Mappo" Richardson, the sweetness of the Pan Dragons' instruments now matches the sweetness of their music. We are fortunate also to have a skilled tuner right here on St. John, Mike Sorzano, who keeps our previous instruments in perfect tune.

Another long-standing dream was fulfilled in 2006 by our good neighbors at the Westin St. John; the band's own parade trolley has now traveled to five St. Thomas parades as well as our own on St. John at Carnival and Christmas.

Local beverage distributor West Indies Corp. fulfilled another critical need with their gift of a spacious strong delivery truck that holds all our pans and more.

The Pan Dragons welcome more solid support from our local community and the wider community of steel pan lovers. Our small core of volunteers is committed to providing the best available instruction, musical arrangement and opportunities for our deserving young musicians; yet funding for the arts is uncertain in our present economic and political climate. An operations grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts 
and a Community Development Block Grant from HUD fund part of our instructor's fee, and other local donors provide fundraising supplies and other services.

Topping our wish list: secure funding for our arranger and for tuning twice a year, and expansion of our overcrowded panyard so we can increase the number of children served and add an office and meeting area.

For information on booking or attending performances, to get our CDs, or if you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Pan Dragons operations or projects, please e-mail us at the link below. Our mailing address:
Love City Pan Dragons, PO Box 1537, St John VI 00831-0537

The Love City Pan Dragons and Baby Dragons Youth Steel Orchestras, Inc. is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; donations and gifts are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law.


Willard John quote

E-mail us

Sponsor of our Two CDs, Rotary Club of St. John:
Rotary Club of St. John

Westin St. John Resort & Villas

VI Now

St. John Guidebook
VI Council on the ArtsCourtesy Car Rentals, St. John

Connections St. JohnInner Visions Reggae, St. John
Friends of the VI National ParkSt. John LinksPlay Steel Pan OnlineMoko Jumbi n Fren Dem

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Updated August 20, 2012
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