Contrast Steel Band was established in 1974, through the creative vision of George Fisher with a humble set of pans worth just £265 and a vision to instil the steel pan in the heart of the community in Leicester. As the instrument was virtually unknown in the city, Fisher found attempts to receive aid from the Education Authority difficult initially. Despite this, Fisher sought out schools in the City who would agree to provide their pupils with steel pan lessons. Shenton Primary School then became the first school in Leicester to receive steel pan lessons with Fishers' steel pan tutor Cy Jean-Jacques. Cyprian Cuthbert Jean-Jacques, otherwise known as ‘Cy’, Mr. Jacques’ and ‘Mr. Contrast’, is a man for whom it is difficult to find the right words to describe what he means to each and every member of Contrast, both past and present. Cy was not only Contrast’s band leader, but also a music tutor with Leicestershire Arts in Education and a gifted musician. He had a charismatic teaching style and made his lessons fun whilst also demanding discipline and respect. This unique and passionate temperament gives contrast the values and morals we still uphold to this day. Cy emigrated back to St. Kitts and Nevis in 2002 and continued to teach the instruments in schools at home until his passing in 2010.
Contrast Steel Band has played a major role in the development of steel pan arts in the city. George and Cy implanted the seed within Leicester schools and now current Contrast manager Pat Munroe has continued to teach the instrument in schools and workshops throughout Leicester and Leicestershire. Other members of the band are also active steel pan tutors assisting Pat with her hard work. Contrast have had the privilege of taking part in very prestigious events; They were the first steel band to perform in Rotterdam Carnival ‘Battle of the Drums’ on two occasions and appeared at the first steel pan festival in La Villette, Paris. We have also performed at a variety of steel pan related events such as Pan Explosion, multiple Blockorama’s, and have performed in the National Panorama Steel Band Competition with bands such as Eclipse, London All-Stars, Metronomes and Real Steel.
The Growing Family
45 years on and Contrast still maintains the same philosophies as the day the band was established. Contrast prides themselves on teaching and encouraging the youth, and now have a very well-established youth side of the band. The Contrast Juniors are a very diverse and musically gifted group of young people aged 10-21, these youngsters have performed many solo gigs and some members have joined the seniors in competing in the National Panorama Competition.
Pat Munroe is a name known by many within Leicester and further afield. She started playing the steel pan at the age of 9 after peeking through a window at her local community centre and seeing Cy Jacques teaching a steel pan class. From that moment, pan was to stay in her life forever. After leaving school, Pat followed in Cy’s footsteps and began teaching in schools with Leicestershire Schools Music Service (LSMS). In 2007, pat hosted Leicesters first ‘Pan Jam’ to exhibit the pan players from her schools, colleges and LSMS Saturday community bands. This event was extremely successful and the 2ndPan Jam followed the next year. Pat has now established her own business ‘Panetiquette’ and teaches in schools, carries out workshops and steel pan demonstrations across the city. Through her hard work and efforts within the band and across Leicester, Pat was nominated for, and deservedly won the ‘Education in the Community Award 2004’ sponsored by Unison; The ’25 Years of Service’ from Leicestershire County Council in 2009, and the ‘BAS Outstanding Achievement Award’ in 2008 and is now the Central Regional Representative for the British Association of Steel bands (BAS).
Visions of the Future
Contrast is always looking to the future and will continue to strive to uphold the traditional Contrast Values. We hope to continue to encourage our youth to take part in steel pan events and to develop their musical knowledge and skills, to become the next generation of Contrast, and to continue to pass on the legacy for years to come. Here’s to another 45 years!