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Our Beginnings

Foundation

Curiosity turned to wonder at a 1998 seminar as lecturer, arranger and publisher Mervyn Jordan strummed a few bars of a familiar melody on an instrument most attendees had only seen in movies of the Caribbean. He called it a “Pan”; announcing that it was one of several purchased for a Steel Orchestra he was forming.

Having returned from a recent trip to his native Trinidad where the sweet sounds of Steel Pan had re-awakened a boyhood dream, Mervyn challenged his audience by saying, “each, including those without musical training, has within them an inborn capacity to make music.” This invitation for discovery and to actually play an instrument, was pondered by many, and accepted by a few.

Within days a start up group of six or eight were experiencing an explosion within as notes, chords, and strums were woven into arrangements that touched your core and made you move. Amazed, blown away, this small group began to share personal experiences with friends and acquaintances. Calls began coming in from as far away as California, requesting an opportunity to experience the power of music personally.

Owning property near Sprucedale, Ontario that would accommodate his vision of developing a world class Steel Orchestra, Mervyn first opened his doors to friends and acquaintances. Within two years the NLSO performed its first concert with 80 musicians ranging in age from 7 to 70.

Dear Steel Orchestra,

We were visiting Canada for a two week trip and we had the wonderful chance to listen to your performance in Huntsville in mid-august. We were amazed and touched by it and after we now returned to Germany that was really something we will remember for a long time.

It was most enjoyable to see so many different ages playing with so much enthusiasm that produced this wonderful sound. We admire that you are so committed to spend so many hours during the week and it can definitely be seen that you are putting in so much effort.

If you ever plan to come to Germany please let me know, I would love to see you again.

Best wishes for your future, you are a wonderful team.

—Germany

Funded through the generosity of those that enjoy our music and share our vision, the NLSO has, for the past four summers, energized communities throughout Ontario with its dynamic music. Event sponsors cover our costs for transport. Pannists receive sponsorship from family and friends to cover personal living expenses while training and performing. Lodging, food and instruction are provided without charge.

Volunteer members, most of whom had never received musical training before their association with the NLSO, are a testimony that anyone can make music. Performances, street clinics, school workshops, and group instruction provide opportunities to discover music’s power to lift the human spirit above the challenges, frustrations and disappointments of the daily grind. Dynamic pleasure is one payback of “making music” with others. Bridging the divide of age, gender, race, and culture, music has provided language for heart communication and bonding.

E-mail from Europe, Africa, the United States, and Caribbean testify of the impact this unique slice of Muskoka and Almaguin is having on the World community. We’ve just begun.

The NLSO endeavors to elevate standards within the Steel Pan community. Top quality instruments bring out the true beauty and potential of this unique instrument. White gloved handling commands respect for precisely tuned, sensitive instruments. Repertoire selection demonstrates Steel Pan’s suitability and adaptability to diverse genre and styles of music. Organizations and venues promoting personal growth and cultural advancement enlist our support. It is our privilege to contribute to communities and the nation, returning a portion of what we have so freely received.

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