A PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Florida State University and the current player/manager of Pastiche Steel Ensemble, Mia Gormandy is an accomplished pan player with an extensive CV to prove it.
Gormandy, who will soon turn 27, began playing the steelpan at age five and won her first competition at age six. She was exposed to a number of competitions and shows where musical excellence was the hallmark. She has won many competitions in T&T and in the Caribbean, such as Twelve and Under, Pan in Schools, Pan Trinbago Junior Competition, Caribbean Junior Pan Festival (Antigua), just to name a few.
She has performed in several different countries all over the world including Australia, Austria, England, USA, Canada, and the Caribbean.
At age 15, Gormandy attained a full scholarship to attend Northern Illinois University (NIU) where she graduated in 2009 with her Bachelor's Degree in Music (Honours). She studied under steelpan pioneer Cliff Alexis and steelpan virtuoso Liam Teague. In 2008, she became the first pan player to win the NIU Concerto Competition.
Gormandy guest-starred at several American university steelbands such as University of Akron Steel Drum Band, Northern Illinois University Steelband (before she became a student there), and Humboldt State University Calypso Band. Several different committees awarded her over the years, including the Laventille Steelband Festival Foundation and the Port-of-Spain City Corporation. She was also awarded NIU's Most Outstanding Woman of the Year 2011.
Gormandy graduated in May of that year with her Master's of Music degree in steelpan performance. She has performed with many world-renowned artistes such as guitarist Berta Rojas and 11-time Grammy-award winner Paquito D'Rivera. She recently graduated with a second Master's of Music degree in ethnomusicology and is now pursuing her PhD where her dissertation is entitled Pan in Japan.
She is the recipient of the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship awarded by the American Musicological Society. She and her fellow pan players formed the band Pastiche Steel Ensemble in 2009. Pastiche is an artistic word which encompasses the bringing together of various art forms for the greater good with people from around the world having similar goals...the steelpan though is the focus instrument of the band.
In today's International Steelband competition at the Queen's Park Savannah, she will be lining up with Trinidad All Stars.Where did you grow up?I lived for the first three years of my life in Macoya but since then, Belmont has been my home.
At what schools/institutions did you receive your education?
Newtown Girls' RC, then for one year at South East Port-of-Spain High School, then on to St Joseph's Convent, Port-of-Spain, from where I received a full scholarship to Northern Illinois University. Then it was on to Florida State University, where I currently am.
Who have been the biggestearly influences in your life?
My parents, first and foremost. Outside of that, musically, Odessa Vincent-Brown from the age of five.
Tell us about your inspiration andencouragement to do the type of "work" you do.
Again, my parents, my dad a piano player, who would accompany me as a child. Now, seeing people like Liam Teague, Cliff Alexis and Amrit Samaroo who are music professionals.
Which of your work(s) do you rate as the most satisfying and memorable?
It has to be our most recent concert a couple of days ago at the Hyatt in Port-of-Spain, our band Pastiche Steel Ensemble and the launch of the Virtual Steelband.
This was special and very different, especially with the launch of the Virtual Steelband, which was inspired by Eric Whitacre, a Grammy-winning composer and conductor, known for his Virtual Choir projects, which brought individual voices from around the globe together into an online choir. It's the same concept except for the steelpan.
What daily motto/credo do you live by...your recipe for success?
Staying positive even when there are roadblocks in life, some doors may close but others will open, all God's plan, his will, not yours.
What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?
Whether to continue to study and pursue my PhD or start working. As fate would have it, I was able to do both as FSU allowed me that opportunity. Two more years to go to attain my PhD!
What is your favourite pastime/interest/hobby outsideof performing/playing?
I am a movie buff, I love to go to the cinema when time permits. I like and appreciate the creative work that goes into films. Any type of movie except horror, please!
What goals and ambitions do you still have? What are your 'steelpan' plans for the future?
I would like to build a career here at home either in academia related to music or in the music industry itself.
If you could interview or dine with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? And what question would you be eager to ask?
There are so many great people, but the one that comes to mind is Nelson Mandela. How did he survive and overcome? I would love to know what his personality was like by being up close with him for at least a couple hours.
Where do you see the future of the steelpan and the steel bandmovement?
The steelpan/steel band movement is so huge abroad, it is really mind-boggling that our national instrument, created right here in our island, is spreading so rapidly worldwide. So the future is bright. Our challenge is to attract younger audiences to our performances even though the majority of pannists are young...a contradiction yes, but certainly a challenge.
Which is your favourite piece of steelband music and a favourite calypso?
Woman on the Bass by All Stars, and I like the Lord Pretender's Never Ever Worry because it echoes my philosophy in life.
What is your greatestaccomplishment in the steelpan arena?
I have only just begun, so that's yet to come.
Of all your shows, concerts, performances, which would you like a first-time audience, listener or viewer to experience?
That would be my recital in 2009 at Queen's Hall, where I was able to play a variety of music which is so important in showcasing the versatility of the instrument. So many people tend to associate the steelpan with calypso, soca and reggae.
Of all your accolades, prizes and awards, which do you rateas extremely special?
All are special, just being considered for an award makes me so grateful.
What is an interesting facet of your personality that most people do not know about you?
That I am goofy at times with my friends, the clown in a way, I like to make people laugh.
What is the best complimentyou have every received?
That I have a really nice smile. I like that since I consider myself very friendly and approachable, so I like to think that my smile puts out positive energy.
What advice would you give to the country's leaders to create a better society?
Listen to the young people. Encourage them to be vocal. Include us in the decision making. Not just pay us lip service in that regard. Create a tangible mechanism and implement it for us to have input and be part of the decision-making process.
What advice would you give to the young people of T&T?
To keep pushing forward and pursue your goals. Stay positive in the face of adversity, the road will be rocky, and things won't always go your way. Try your best to always see the glass as half full. With that mentality and focus, you will be successful in life. Being happy and positive are choices you can make.
Describe yourself in two words–one beginning with M, the other with G, your initials.
Meticulous and Genuine. I am meticulous about my music and performance. I like to make sure that everything is right, well planned, and well rehearsed. People have told me that they think I am genuine. I try my best to stay true to myself.