The Pan Dragons began in the mid-1990s as the Euphonics Steel Orchestra, borne out of a teen drug and pregnancy prevention after-school program. After a brief stint as the Ghost Riders Youth Steel Orchestra, the band was dubbed Love City Pan Dragons in 1998 and has carried that name since. Currently, we are led by our instructor and arranger, Ikema Dyer, and our board of directors, led by president Andrea Milam Chouiniere. Treasurer Elaine Penn is our longest standing volunteer, with more than 20 years of service to the band. She has at times single-handedly kept the band running, and the Pan Dragons and the St. John community as a whole owe her much gratitude for keeping the pan yard doors open.
Aside from the obvious benefits of bringing joy to residents and visitors alike when we play out in the community, the Pan Dragons provides a place for members to work together to learn, overcome challenges, and reap the rewards of their dedication. Practices are three hours or longer—a long time to focus on one activity, especially for some of our younger members—so the kids learn discipline and the importance of putting in the work. Members vary greatly in age, birthplace, and background, but when they enter the pan yard, the differences are set aside so they can work together as the Love City Pan Dragons. Some of our members have earned solo paying gigs, showing them what a career in music can bring.
I think the Pan Dragons illustrate that yes, it is. Our members range in age from 9 to 72 and come from St. John, down island, and the U.S. When players walk into the pan yard, they become part of a cohesive organization that produces wonderful music, bringing smiles and dancing to those who see us perform. Music is life!
Going down the road during the St. John Festival parade is always a highlight. It’s a time when the band members are truly excited to be showing off their craft. Energy is also high at St. Thomas and St. John Panorama events, when the audience is big and the band performs along with other steel pan bands from the territory. Performing at Mongoose Junction, which is always a gracious host, connects us with visitors who truly seem to feel the love and enjoy the energy that Pan Dragons brings.
The Pan Dragons typically performs on the first Saturday of each month during high season in the Frank Powell Park bandstand for the ferries arriving at 1, 2, and 3 p.m. Aside from that we play at numerous community events like a recent sickle cell fundraiser, the annual domestic violence awareness march, a holiday celebration in December, and of course the annual St. John Festival parade on July 4, when we play aboard our double-decker trolley along the parade route. Performances are typically announced on our website and our Facebook page.
First and foremost, we must always work to keep money in the bank. We are a nonprofit organization that relies solely on grants and donations to keep the doors open. We received some sizable grants and donations not long after the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season, but that level of funding is not expected to continue so we’re always looking for new ways to generate income. Our other biggest challenge is the fact that we’re all volunteer-run, and people on St. John are very, very busy these days. It’s difficult for us all to find time to do what needs to be done for the band, but in the end we make it work because the Pan Dragons is an important cultural institution on this island, and most of the board members have children in the band who we want to see succeed.
Like us on Facebook, follow us on YouTube, tell your friends and acquaintances about us, and above all else, donate. We’ve made it easy with a dedicated PayPal link: https://www.paypal.me/lovecitypandragons .
Those without PayPal can mail a check made out to Love City Pan Dragons to PO Box 1537, St. John, VI 00831. Supporters can donate whatever amount they choose, or contact us to find out how you can help by purchasing a batch of shirts for the band or sponsoring travel.
The band’s costs include paying our instructor/arranger, tuning the pans, insurance, buying the T-shirts band members wear when we play out, and sometimes we like to treat the kids for their hard work with field trips like a recent excursion we took to St. Thomas to go to Chicken ‘n Bowling. We would like to start thinking bigger and bring the band to perform in Panorama events on other islands, or maybe even travel to Trinidad, the birthplace of steelpan, and those trips will have tremendous cost involved, so we’ll be looking to the kindness of our fans and supporters to help make trips like these happen.