Sunday, February 3, 2013

You hit like a girl . . .

“You hit like a girl” is quite a compliment if the person saying it is comparing you to steel pan builder and tuner, Emily Lemmerman (building and tuning pans requires one to repeatedly hit a steel drum with specially shaped hammers). Emily is from the U.S. and earned an undergraduate degree in music from Ithaca College. When she finished her work there, she moved to West Virginia and apprenticed with the world-renowned pan tuner, Ellie Mannette, for over six years. She now owns her own company in Austin, Texas, but travels to Trinidad annually to play in Panorama.

To the best of my knowledge, no woman has ever tuned for a large steel orchestra in Trinidad. But, the leader of Skiffle, Junia Regrello, delights in being progressive, so he hired Emily to tune for Skiffle this year (he also hired the first foreign composer/arranger a few years back, U.S. pannist Andy Narrel). 

Watching Emily tune and then listening to the high quality result of her work has caused some buzz in the panyard and the word is spreading (you can read a short write-up on Emily in one of Trinidad’s national newspapers here). It's been especially gratifying to see the young women in Skiffle recognize and delight in Emily's accomplishments. Emily is opening up whole new worlds of possibility for them just by being who she is and doing what she does. It is socially subversive, in a good way.

Emily is not a Sweet Briar grad, but her trailblazing success and “can do” attitude remind me of many of my students. I love being in Skiffle, but I can’t wait to get back to Sweet Briar. There are women there who, like Emily, are going to change the world for the better. It is my privilege to help them on their way.

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