St George's College hosts inter-first form music competition
The staging of a first-form music competition, in various categories in secondary schools in Jamaica, has perhaps never been previously attempted.
However, when St George's College's (STGC) music teacher Jacqueline Dawes, conceptualised the idea in March and introduced it to the headmistress, first-form teachers and students, the response was electrifying.
It was enthusiastically embraced by all concerned and they went into rehearsal mode.
Dawes, is formally trained in the arts of creative dancing and musicianship, with 31 years of experience, has been with St Georges since September 2015 as specialist music teacher, assigned to first forms only.
Her short tenure revealed enormous musical talent at that level and it spurred her into action.
At the outset, the 'All Together Sing' choir competition was suggested as the avenue for exposing these talents but, according to Dawes, "It being a very expensive undertaking to go through all the rounds, I tried to do something internal that is cost-effective and has the same impact, with the same outlay - professional judges, backing musicians and proper audio services", she said.
Being an executive member of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), placed her in good stead to acquire affordable, and competent musicians and judges for the venture.
JAVAA has also been trying to sensitise the school community to its mission of preserving Jamaica's musical heritage and was happy to come on board.
JAVAA's president, Frankie Campbell, leader and bass player of the the Fab 5 band, along with keyboard maestro, Sydney Thorpe, - the blind genius, were in attendance on April 13, when the first annual STGC inter-first form music competition got under way at the Abe Issa Auditorium on the school grounds.
Under the theme, 'Vision and Performing Arts will always Live', and with the very competent master of ceremonies, Baldwin Howe, from 'Where It's At' fame doing the introductions, a glorious mix of talent was brought on stage, incorporating the categories of Folk/Negro Spirituals, Solo Religious Piece, Original Piece, Duet with Form Teacher, Ensemble and Reggae.
The competition also included a question-and-answer period which, according to Dawes, was based on research taken primarily from weekly Gleaner columns, 'The Music Diaries', by Roy Black and 'Story of the Song'.
The two-day presentation saw stirring, quality vocal performances from Xavier Henry, Akil Henry, Amal Miller and others in the religious, reggae and R&B genres, reviving memories of the glorious days of vintage gospel and rhythm and blues.
The variation in drumming and the expert use of percussive instruments by the young musicians brought repeated appreciative applause from fellow students and teachers. Scores ranging from seven to nine out of 10 dominated judges Kemar Miller, Clive Simpson, Beryl D'Aguilar, Baga Case and Eberle (Bobby) Dawes scoresheets, It bearing testimony to the standard of the performances.
Dawes is optimistic and hopeful the idea will spread to other grades. She sees it as training ground for them all to become rounded individuals and, in some cases, professional musicians.