Fri | Feb 28, 2020

Five Questions with JCDC's Gregory Simms

Published:Friday | March 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle/Gleaner Writer

Gregory Simms now serves as the director of events management and production at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). He oversees all JCDC national, state, and commemorative activities, including National independence and emancipation celebrations such as the Grand Gala and Independence Village. He joined the Commission eight years ago as a music development specialist. He is also a member of the World Choir Council and the principal director and founder of the internationally acclaimed Jamaica Youth Chorale. He is an adjunct lecturer at the Edna Manley College School of Music. He enjoys music, a good laugh, a good meal, great conversation and a good read, and he's this week's featured person on Five Questions With.

1. You are a man who wears many hats, but of all the jobs you have done throughout your life, what has been your most enjoyable?

"I love all my hats and I wear them all proudly. I enjoy the leadership challenges of my job at the JCDC- attempting to fit government bureaucracy into creative energy and industry. I cannot do without choral music and my family at the Jamaica Youth Chorale. I like to share and connect with colleagues from across the globe on the World Choir Council. I love the groundbreaking work of Plie for the Arts and pacing through the challenges of those productions. I can't choose one hat although my job-job is at the JCDC."

2. What would be one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

"That I am an award winning athlete and swimmer. I have the medals I earned in grade two to prove it. Otherwise, people are usually surprised by my age (maybe cause mi nuff sometimes). All my life people assume I am older than I really am. I don't mind that sometimes."

3. If you could be Minister of Culture or Tourism Minister for a day, what would be your first order of business?

"Fast track and embolden the policy and advocacy thrust around the establishment of a central framework for the regulation and authentication of Jamaican culture, tangible and intangible, which is now an exploited global phenomena. So if you say that you are teaching Kumina, or cooking Jamaican jerk, there will be an authority that, among other things, that can validate this. Then I'd let them free Buju."

4. As a key member of the JCDC team, what would you say has been the organisation's most significant contribution to date (in terms of programs).

"The National Festival of the Performing Arts has not only honed skills in the arts - dance, speech, music, trad folk- but has also taught many of us valuable life skills. So many thousands of Jamaicans have benefited from participating in this programme. It is amazing to travel the island and meet with the trainers and participants who sometimes sacrifice to keep the arts and Jamaican culture alive through the training and performance opportunities provided by this programme. I am very proud of it, from my own days on the stage. I have had the privilege to share with colleagues and to adjudicate in other similar festivals in the region and can say there is nothing like it. We continue to work at improving it."

5. Based on the level of interest for certain cultural activities, it seems Jamaicans have lost an appreciation for cultural activities. Do you believe so? If yes, why?

I think when many of us say culture, we only refer to traditional 'ole time sinting.' Culture also refers to the popular and modern. But if you are looking through the right lenses, you will quickly realise that our traditional culture continues to be with us. It evolves, it changes its name; sometimes it hides in plain sight. The interesting thing is that Jamaicans, by nature or nurture, are inextricably and unapologetically linked to and appreciate our culture and Jamaicaness. A part of the challenge for us at the JCDC, is to honour and present both the traditional and the contemporary in a way that they can recognise each other in 140 characters or less. So whether you are playing revival on the rattling drum or trapset; or dancing in Negril or Manchoniel on August mawnin, you understand the meaning of who we are. The JCDC must also ensure that its cultural activities appeal to a modern aesthetic in this time of connectivity and boundrylessness.