In Numbers: Curepe Scherzando’s Budget Crunch

With its last cent already spent even before the judges arrive, Curepe Scherzando is down to figuring out where to find the next $5,000 to pay for T-shirts for the band’s first appearance in the preliminary round of competition one week from today.

The $5,000 T-shirt challenge, however, is just one in a long catalogue of expenses that Scherzando, like over 90 percent of steelbands in the Panorama competition, must figure out as the bills roll in.

Having applied the cutting knife several times over, manager Laurie Andall calculates that the 2019 Panorama run will cost Curepe Scherzando Co-operative Society Ltd $390,000.

The single largest cost item is players’ fees which fall to bands this year following Pan Trinbago’s decision to stop the $1,500 stipend to players for two years. While sponsored bands may have the budget to afford larger fees, the average band pays players anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500. At a maximum of 90 players, a medium band will budget anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 for 100 players. Added to this is the arranger’s fee of around $25,000; a pan tuner at $25,000; a professional drummer at $20,000 and a drillmaster at $5,000 plus.

Transportation costs vary depending on the distance between the band’s base and the competition venue at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Andall estimates that player transport will cost Curepe Scherzando $10,000 while the transport of pans will cost $35,000 for a single return trip to the Savannah. If the band gets through to the finals, Andall figures that deals could be brokered to keep the cost around $45,000 for two trips.

Then there is the cost of $12,000 for food and beverage for players who spend long hours at the Savannah. Add another $10,000 for decorations, flags and banners which get more elaborate and expensive as bands move up in the competition. Another $15,000 must be set aside for ongoing welding and repair services for steel instruments on metal stands and wheels, with another $10,000 for sundry personnel including equipment loaders, security and flagwomen. Miscellaneous expenses such as the purchase of new pans, now about $10,000 for a double seconds, re-chroming, and wear and tear also add up.

And then there are the T-shirts, starting at $5,000 but escalating to $35,000-plus for the finale event when showmanship counts.

Asked how Scherzando intends to finance its Panorama bid with no money in hand, Andall gives the answer that experience has taught him in the five decades of being around the band: “Magic and money.”

With its 50th anniversary to be marked this year, Scherzando counts its triumph in notes of survival and endurance.  Handed the abandoned old Curepe market in 1969, the band formed itself into a co-operative, rebuilt the premises and started a couple of small businesses on the compound, including pan manufacturing and a bar. It also rents its venues on a sliding scale to accommodate non-profit and commercial interests. While the income from these initiatives keeps it going, the cost of going to Panorama is an investment in the chance to deliver a prize-winning performance with Yohan Popplewell’s arrangement of Shadow’s “Horn”. If they succeeded, it would help settle debts and finance the next round.

Sunity Maharaj

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