Steve Lawrie's Bio


Steve was born in 1967 and grew up in Grahamstown, South Africa, where he spent most of his life until he moved to Akron Ohio in November 2000.

In Grahamstown, he attended St Andrew's Preparatory School and St Andrew's College, and then went on to Rhodes University, where in 1988 he graduated with a B.Sc(Hons) degree in Computer Science (with distinction).

During his high-school years, he encountered a Steel Band, through Prof Andrew Tracey (the "Andrew Tracey Steelband"). Steve's father, Mike Lawrie, had joined the band in 1979, and by mid 1982 Steve was heavily involved in playing pan. At that time South Africa was (quite rightly) being isolated internationally due to the apartheid policies of our government, and so there was no way for him to purchase a steeldrum. With a hammer and a barrel in his parents' garage, Steve set about making a lot of noise and some very bad steelpans. The poor quality of the pans intrigued him, since it seemed that this should be a fairly easy thing to make.

Throughout his university studies, he spent more and more time making and playing pan. The instruments improved continuously, and eventually in 1993 Steve started a small steelpan company in South Africa called "PanMaster Steelband Services".

October 1993 saw Steve travel to Trinidad in the Caribbean, home of the steelpan, where he spent 6 months there working with various pan tuners. After an initial month working in the panyard of Lennox "Darkie" Lewis, Steve spent four months Keith "Moon" St Louis, who's panyard had a continuous flow of pantuners through it, among then Jimi Phillip, Yo-Yo, and Lincoln Noel. Steve also performed with the Amoco Renegades during this time, both at their annual Christmas Concert with the Marionettes Choral (also sponsored by Amoco), and for the 1994 Panorama.

April 1994 saw the first democratic elections in South Africa, and he returned home at the beginning of that month. Steve recalls "It was a thrilling experience to stand in line with people of all races as we cast our votes."

The little company he had started continued to grow and sell pans in South Africa, and even exported a few to Botswana, the USA, Brazil, and the UK.

In December of 2000 Steve moved to the USA to join Panyard, Inc. The move was prompted by several factors - the most prominent being the spiralling crime rate in South Africa (which is now the worst in the world - there were more murders in South Africa in 2006 than civilian casualties in Iraq). The other main factor was an awareness that the status quo of steelpan was not acceptable - even the highest quality steelpans available at that time had serious musical flaws in them; it seemed that moving to Panyard would provide an environment in which it might be possible to fix some of these problems.

Between 2001 and about mid 2004, Steve was a major player in the development of the instrument at Panyard as it moved from using 18 gauge 55 gallon barrels into the era of the Solid Hoop, thicker steel, bigger barrels and so on.

From mid 2004 Steve was the head tuner at Panyard, up until the time he left in August 2007.

The current Discovery Channel program "How It's Made" features a segment on Panyard, Inc. in which Steve may be seen at work tuning a pan. The instruments featured in the intro and end of the segment were all tuned by Steve.

Copyright (C) Steve Lawrie 2016