THE TRANSFORMATIVE ONES

Lately, the past - starving for good recollections, roams through, unearthing nooks and crannies and all sorts of experiences. Revisiting accomplishments, and sometimes, recollections destined for oblivion or perhaps resolution.

Repainting pictures of friends and friendships both lost and kept but mainly the transformative ones which emboldened appreciation for those who, without force, influenced dreams. Today, a recollection of those types of amities present themselves. As fortuity would retain it, friends of all types traveled into and out of this life of mine. Some of them leaving behind mounds of emotions to sort through and others leaving frame-able bits.

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As nostalgia sits on that last sentence, the mental image of someone who left some solemn frame-able bits appears. 

Danielle Rumsey is her name. A comely, gray-eyed, English girl. North Eastern College in Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of our connection which sleepovers, swimming competitions, road trips and shared love for animals solidified. Subsequently, a critical moment as a result of that friendship comes to mind. With pure intention, our feet stomped through a place with a new world - overflowing with awe - where remembrances and fulfillment lived.

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In the year 1995, Danielle requested some company to attend a rehearsal at her pan tent; as referred to by the locals. This day birthed a deep love for the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago - the steel pan, and enthusiasm from this experience ensured a mouth expressed the desire to play this beautiful instrument to the ears of parents.

A few sunrises and sunsets later - upon enrollment in the Gary Straker's Pan School -sharing this love for the instrument came true. 

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Led by Gary Straker, who at the time was this boisterous, passionate, and aptitudinal steel pan music composer, the pan school consisted of adolescent children and teenagers. The band played at all sorts of events around the country, serenading audiences with renditions of familiar musical compositions. One such composition is from the movie Mission Impossible, and when played, personal fondness grew distant.

As the band grew in size, popularity tagged along and sanctioned the band's opportunity to take part in the National School's Junior Panorama Festival in the year 1997. Gary, with the avail of another charismatic composer, who went by the designation of "Ian," composed a resplendent piece and the band played it magnificently, so much so, a spot on the "big stage" to play in the finals of the music festival bore the band's name. The sacrifice was tremendous and loaded with tedious rehearsals. A filmy recollection of the effects arduous rehearsals created, particularly on the day of the finals, brings to light the badly bruised hands of Nathaniel - a boy at the time and incredible drummer for the band until his premature death in his late teens by the hands of the law. 

As the squeaky wheels of our steel pan racks purposefully rolled onto the stage for our final performance, nervousness appeared until confidence in the composition took its place. 

Once settled in, Gary held his counting stick high in the air in the usual manner, then commenced a customary pre-countdown dance - an energetic two-step. He followed that up with a conventional melodic bang of the steel followed by a rhythmic count from one to four. For the next few minutes, the enchanting sound of sticks to steel rang out. A female judge danced, and a score sheet went airborne - a reaction which fixed the band's place in Junior Panorama history. As "Captain" of the band at the time, radio hosts rushed in for interviews after the affirmation of victory. The dancing judge was the highlight of those interviews garnering laugh upon laugh.

This victory marked a historic moment for the band, one that led to many other opportunities. Recognition came later followed by a celebration and an award ceremony with individual certificates as the only tangible byproduct of this accomplishment.

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As life would have it, a few years later, other experiences and opportunities for personal growth came knocking. The time to move on to other chapters of life blew in like a casual tropical breeze. Gary, of course, continued with his work which eventually gifted him the recognition he deserved - the Hummingbird Medal - one of the highest awards in Trinidad and Tobago. Some years later, illness stole his last breath and just like that; he moved on to a different chapter of existence.

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When considering the course of events that followed that one day at Danielle's steel pan band rehearsal, the conspicuous counter thought is, without Danielle in the equation, the possibility of these experiences seems slim. Granted, if fate willed it, it could have transpired at another time. All this sounds cliche, but from an authentic perspective, had Danielle prevented herself from asking for some company to attend her rehearsal that day, then that would have blocked that specific opportunity to kick start the definitive course the universe charted. In the grand scheme of things, it would have prevented the writing of this story.

Friendships are beautiful in that way, as many experiences result from that relationship. The above sentence confirms the necessity or rather the importance of making and keeping friends, especially those with significant influence. The more profound truth is, friends like these may open doors of opportunity and personal magnification through the right channels of encouragement, and yes, that can come from within, but sometimes someone else's input has a more significant impact.

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So, learn from everyone, even when connections end. Some people stay for brief moments while others journey alongside, but regardless of duration and outcome, appreciate the value of each relationship, as everyone, particularly those bearing gifts of enlightenment, unlock doors furnished with uncharted realms awaiting discovery.