Knowing there had to be light at the end of the dark tunnel was enough comfort to sustain Wendy Jones, whose life has been filled with sorrow and pain in the last eight months.
The support of family and friends and more recently a Harry Jerome Award, which she will receive on April 25 for her promotion of steelpan music, have uplifted Jones, who lost three close family members in the last five months of 2014.
Her 22-year-old nephew, Kerwin Jones, was fatally shot in July in Laventille, Trinidad; younger brother, Ian Jones, succumbed to illness in September and her father – Felix Jones – died last December at age 85.
“That period was the toughest in my life,” said Jones, a founding member of the North York Inter-Community youth group. “But God does not give one more that they can bear. I have made it through that most difficult period with the support of many people and this award which have lifted me. I am very appreciative of this honour.”
Though spending the first 10 years of her life in Trinidad & Tobago which is the mecca of pan music, Jones was introduced to the instrument for the first time in 1977 while attending Westview Centennial Secondary School, where long-time Afropan arranger, Earl LaPierre Sr., was a music facilitator.
LaPierre, who resides in the Cayman Islands, was instrumental in the then Toronto Board of Education offering steelpan music as a credit course.
After graduating from high school, Jones joined Afropan which is the city’s oldest and most successful steelpan, having clinched 28 Panorama titles. She spent 10 years with the band before co-founding Pan Fantasy Steel Orchestra 29 years ago. Last August, the youth-driven Pan Fantasy band won its third straight Pan Alive crown.
While satisfied with the success, Jones said that winning isn’t everything.
“I tell the young people that they are always first on my list,” said Jones, who has been a child and youth worker for the past two decades with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. “I let them know that titles don’t matter and that they only go with who you are and what you stand for. I encourage them all the time to stand up, be someone and desist from surrounding themselves with negative influences. I let them know that if they do their best, God will do the rest.”
Over the last 18 years, Jones and Earl LaPierre Jr. have staged the successful Snowflakes on Steel winter concert.