Patricia Alison Bishop was an artist whose commitment to teaching lifted entire communities to heights of excellence outside the boundaries of their expectations.
From childhood, her passion for music, painting and poetry signaled a destiny in the Arts. After graduating from Bishop Anstey High School, she went to England on a national scholarship to study at King’s College, Durham University. She later did a Master’s degree in history at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, where she taught for several years thereafter.
Those years were decisive in shaping the sense of purpose that would come to guide Pat Bishop’s life. Her insights into Caribbean history and society, combined with her belief in the power of the Arts to soothe, liberate, shape and discipline led her into panyards, mas camps and other communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago. She became the medium through which classical training in the Arts passed to those outside the formal learning system and through whom the old classics were energized by the living creativity of the people’s Arts.
In between her continuous painting and teaching, Pat Bishop maintained a grueling schedule of outreach education, preparing community groups for the annual Music Festival and steelbands for festivals, Panorama competitions and overseas performances. She conducted and arranged music for leading steelbands, including Trinidad All Stars, Phase II, Renegades and Desperadoes.
Her most enduring relationship, however, was with Desperadoes, which she conducted on eight major tours of the United States, including two major concerts at Carnegie Music Hall. She made history as the first person to conduct a combined steelband and symphony orchestra when Desperadoes and the New York Pops performed together in the mid-1980s.
But it was in the Lydian Singers that her imagination enjoyed full range. As its musical director from 1987 until her passing in 2011, Pat Bishop established a permanent steelband wing in Lydians Steel, and brought in African and Tassa drummers, and dancers from folk and ballet disciplines. The result was a musical alchemy between the great classics of Europe and the indigenous art forms that was uniquely Caribbean.