Jeremiah Reyes, the 11 year old in the front line for the Legendary Phase II Pan Groove

This past week, pan yards were abuzz with activity in preparations for their much-anticipated final performance at the Panorama final on Carnival Saturday. On visiting Phase II’s pan yard, I noticed 11-year-old frontline player, Jeremiah Reyes, quietly sitting at the side playing on his phone. He looked withdrawn and tired, a stark contrast to the energetic performer I saw on video at the Prelims. 

I wondered what his experience must have been like over these past few weeks. Is he enjoying all this hard work? How is he balancing school with these late-night practices? How do his parents feel about him being involved in pan at this level? Knowing his family well, I met up with them this morning to try to get a better perspective on Jeremiah’s story and experience throughout this process.


 Jeremiah is a Standard 5 student at Dunross Preparatory School. He is a footballer, an athlete, an academic, a singer, a church boy, an obedient child to his parents and of course, an excellent musician. He started learning pan at 3 years old from Mervyn Caynes. His talent shined from early and by 8 years old, Mr. Caynes had him practicing with Phase II. It took only one year before he hit the stage with the reputable band. Pan is not just a casual hobby for Jeremiah. He has also taken to the academic side of the instrument and has so far attained up to the Grade 4 level in Music Theory (ABRSM) and Grade 3 Practical (UWI).


Preparing for Panorama

 Practices officially started on the 2nd January and were scheduled for every single night up to the Panorama final except for the day after Semis, which was a rest day. Jeremiah explained that practices were scheduled for 8pm but would usually begin at 9pm and run until they “felt like finishing”. This sounded like regular late-night/early mornings for this young child, but he explained to me that no matter what time practices ran till, once he had school the next day, his curfew was 11pm. That’s the first rule that his parents set! 


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Working with Boogsie 


As explained by Jeremiah, working with Lennox ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, the arranger for Phase II was a “fascinating experience”. This year the band performed “Hello” by Kes. Boogsie would listen to the melody a few times and call out the notes to the arrangement. The band did one section of the piece at a time and over the course of a month or so, eventually learnt the entire thing. Boogsie’s methods fascinated Jeremiah because everything was done from his memory. 

There was no sheet music involved, previous sections were not recorded and if Boogsie had the idea for a melody in his head, he was capable of calling out the correct notes for it. The rhythm’s for the melodies were tapped out on the side of a pan or clapped and sometimes sung by Boogsie in the teaching process. “Sometimes he got angry when persons played while he was thinking, causing him to lose an idea.”

The introduction and conclusion to an arrangement were usually the last to be taught but sometimes Boogsie would go back and change other aspects of the arrangement, for example, if they scored low in Prelims or if he just didn’t like how something sounded.


Panorama Finals

Jeremiah “wasn’t nervous, but anxious” before going on the big stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah. The band set up and practiced on the track. He prayed. Everyone wished him luck. The performance was about 7mins 30secs long.

According to Jeremiah, “All the hard work and practice was worth the performance. Just being on the stage and jumping and playing and having fun was an amazing experience.”


Jeremiah and Kes

In the end, Phase II placed 7th and I wondered if maybe this was a disappointment for him. He put on a brave
“Placing 7th really doesn’t matter! Just the joy of the experience, playing such a great song…that’s what really matters. I met many people while playing and many people congratulated me, which made me happy. I met Kes and Kernel Roberts and got pictures with them which was a big deal.”


What about School?

 Q: When do you do homework?

A: When I come home from school.

 Jeremiah succinctly answered the question as though it was silly of me for asking. His discipline came to the fore. He ensures that all his homework and studies are done right after school. His mom corrects it and if he has any problems with a topic, she would teach him…Good parenting comes to the fore!!

Imagine Jeremiah placed first in his last end of term exam.


Mom Weighs In

 Jeremiah’s mom, Jennifer Reyes, not necessarily the biggest music fan herself, committed from very early as a mom to supporting her children with their dreams, despite her own personal biases,


“Once it’s something for the greater good and positive.”

 She was hesitant at first about him being in Panorama this year because of his SEA preparations but he was achieving excellence academically, placing first in test and “he does all his chores, so it was difficult to say no”. A strict schedule was necessary though. What amazed her was that his discipline seemed to improve. In the process, he also learnt sacrifice. 

For example, if he is going pan practice in the night, he must take a nap in the afternoon. This unfortunately means, little or no football sweat with his friends. Sometimes, he begs for 15 mins to play football and you bet that on the 15-minute mark he was back home. Time management skills were developing. 

Jennifer also believes that being part of the band has enhanced his memory. He is now a better musician as well, arranging his own versions of songs. “He always amazes me!”

 Performing on stage in the Panorama final was Jeremiah’s dream and both Jennifer and her husband Johann were happy to allow this dream to flourish. Pan has also brought a different dimension to family time, as the entire family would come out on weekends to practice sessions. During the weekdays, a family member would drop Jeremiah and stay with him till practice was finished. These duties sometimes included extended family like his uncle and grandparents.


What’s next for Jeremiah?

Now that Panorama is over, Jeremiah has his eyes set on Music Festival. He is participating as a soloist but also with his school, Dunross in group pieces. This well-rounded young man is also an athlete participating in the upcoming Milo Games.

Let’s hope he doesn’t forget his SEA preparations. Actually, I’m certain that he’ll do well! With his incredible discipline and appetite for success in all aspects of his life, coupled with great parenting, he can only do well. His first choice is Fatima College!! We wish him luck!

Keep your eyes and ears open for more on this emerging superstar! Don’t forget the name “Jeremiah Reyes”!

Phase II performing at the Prelims 2018. Notice Jeremiah in front on the right.


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© Stefan Roach 2013