Contrast Steel band was established through the creative vision of George Fisher with a humble set of pans costing £265 and a vision to instil the steel pan in the hearts of Leicester’s community. From the onset, Fisher faced adversity when attempting to receive aid from the Educational Authority of Leicester; the instrument was unknown in the city however, despite this lack of support, Fisher visited schools to encourage their support for steel pan lessons. Shenton Primary School became the first school in Leicester to have steel pan lessons with Fishers newly acquired steel pan tutor Cyprian Cuthbert Jean-Jacques, or “Cy”.
Consequently, as support was encouraged Contrast Steel band was formed and Cy was officially employed by Leicestershire Schools Music Service (LSMS), then called Leicestershire Arts in Education, as a steel pan tutor. Contrast was predominantly a youth steel band with the eldest member at the time being 13, and was named ‘Contrast’ to represent the vast culture differences of the members. With the band firmly established, George left he band in the exceptionally capable hands of Cy and went on to continue teaching and spreading the gospel of pan in Coventry.
Cy Jean-Jacques was an extremely gifted musician with a charismatic presence, injecting passion into each piece of music he taught. His unique and passionate temperament gave Contrast the values and morals that are still upheld today. After completing his mission of transforming Contrast from a small youth steel band to one of professional status, Cy went back to St. Kitts and Nevis in 2002 and spent his retirement teaching steel pan music to children in schools until he passed in 2010.
From conception to present day, Contrast Steel band has played a major role in the education of the steel pan in Leicester and surrounding areas. Pat Munroe who is Contrast Steel band’s director and manager has continued to teach the instrument in schools and workshops throughout Leicestershire.
Contrast have had the privilege of taking part in some very prestigious events such as being the first steel band to perform in Rotterdam Carnivals ‘Battle of the Drums’ on two occasions, and also appeared at the first steel pan festival in la Villette, Paris. The band were honoured to have performed for Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth when she visited Leicester. Contrast were second place at the Pan Explosion competition 2008 and performed at Leicester Music Festival.
Contrast Steel band faced adversity and hardships during the early days however, the band has grown with its focus remaining on teaching the youth and encouragement of young people to join the band to learn the art of the steel pan. Newest members of the band have participated in the National Panorama Steel Band Competition, authenticating the bands passion for creating a new generation of pan lovers.
Courtesy of Pat Munroe.