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Pete the Pan Stick goes international

Published: 
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Students with Sanch Electronix CEO Simeon Sandiford, second from left–back row; education minister Anthony Garcia, third from left–back row; and TSTT senior manager– Enterprise Marketing, Rolph Young, centre–back row. PHOTO COURTESY TSTT

“It was well over two decades ago when Dennis Williams, better known as the Merchant, sang Pan In Danger. Wherever he is now, he must be smiling, because things are going to turn around.”

So said NCC Regional Carnival chairman Lennox Toussaint recently at the Queen’s Park Oval. He was acting as MC during the distribution launch on October 5, of a unique music education software DVD called Pete the Pan Stick.

Pete the Pan Stick is a project of Simeon Sandiford of Sanch Electronix. 

It is an indigenous, animated steelpan instructor which lets you teach yourself pan in your own time, on a PC computer. 

The software is now available for international purchase online, via the Microsoft Store in its Windows 10 apps section. The application is also being used in an innovative pilot project at one primary and nine secondary schools in T&T, to help teach pan musicianship skills to youth in a flexible, cost-effective way.

The actual Pete application has no predetermined sequencing: users can explore it in many ways. 

The animated character of Pete dances like a Fancy Sailor, waves a flag and claps his hands, in addition to being adept at playing the steelpan and other percussion instruments such as the iron and cowbell. 

Users can learn how to play simple rhymes and folk songs, before proceeding to tackle more difficult melodies. 

The app takes users on a journey, beginning with the tenor pan, via an illustrated layout of its notes, narration of its range and animation of 24 major and harmonic minor scales. 

The app includes virtuoso pan musicians and steel orchestras playing excerpts from some of their famous Panorama arrangements. Short films illustrate how the steelpan is made and trace its evolution, while extra notes are included in PDF files to complete one’s learning experience. 

Sandiford conceived the idea of teaching pan using a computer and the Internet. Camille Selvon-Abrahams created Pete the Pan Stick, the animated steelpan instructor, and Jeremiah Cruickshank developed the application on a Microsoft platform called UNITY.

“Not only is it among the first products emanating from T&T to be published as a universal Windows app, but more importantly, it is the first for education,” noted Sandiford at the launch, which took place at the TSTT hospitality suite at the Queen’s Park Oval.

Partners in the pilot school project are TSTT through its brand Blink|bmobile, and Sanch Electronix, with the Ministry of Education giving its approval and encouragement. 

The Blink|bmobile Foundation continues to donate millions of dollars in youth development initiatives in sport, education, culture and health, and states that these are the critical building blocks for young people to become full participating members of a progressive, knowledge-based society—which is why it is helping to fund the use of Pete the Pan Stick in the school pilot project.

“Pete the Pan Stick is in fact a cross-curriculum application that supports music literacy, visual and performing arts, English language arts, and social studies; so TSTT has invested in, and has partnered with Sanch Electronix to eventually make a digital instructional tool that never sleeps, is always there, is never wrong, and wants the best for you,” said Rolph Young, the TSTT senior manager of Enterprise Marketing, at the launch.

In a T&T Guardian telephone interview Sandiford said the software can enable the very cost-effective delivery of a curriculum entitled Pan in Education in blended classroom environments. 

He also noted that the Pete the Pan Stick application supports social entrepreneurship initiatives such as online mentorship and personalised tuition. 

“TSTT has reserved a six-terabyte server for the Pete the Pan Stick application, to facilitate its use in the T&T education system. Right now the app is only accessible on the Microsoft Windows 10 PC platform. 

“By the end of 2016, it will be possible to stream Pete commercially from this server to Apple and Android devices as a cross-platform app.”

Sandiford said the software is constantly being upgraded, and that there are plans to not only have a Spanish language version of it, but also a Korean version, in Hangul (Hangul is the alphabet that has been used to write the Korean language since the 15th century). He said the Spanish menu for Pete will be incorporated into the app during the first quarter of 2017. 

The process of translation to Spanish will be facilitated through the Cuban Institute of Animation, ICAIC, with which Sanch has a formal agreement.

“This is our strategy for entering the Latin American market using ‘conventional’ products from the T&T Manufacturers’ Association to piggyback on cultural products, and not vice versa, as is the norm,” he commented.

At the software distribution launch earlier this month, Minister of Education Anthony Garcia praised the pilot project to use the software in schools, calling it an important, exciting interactive experience in music education: “It is important that we recognise a major aspect of our culture. It is important that we appreciate what we have,” he said.

The Pete software app is now available, free of charge, to ten pilot schools: St Augustine Girls’ High; ASJA College, San Fernando; St Francois Girls’ College; Corpus Christi College; Holy Faith Convent; Caribbean Union College; St George’s College; Bishop Anstey High; Renaissance Primary and Trinity College, Maraval.

MORE INFO

App download size: 1.91 GB

System requirements: PC with Windows 10 or Windows 10 mobile, x64 Cost: US$9.99 (TT$64.00) Link to Microsoft store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/animated-steelpan-instructor/9nb...

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