Peaceful 'rat-a-tat-tat' - Marching band contest engages St. James youth
Marching bands, which have been a source of community strength, face high maintenance costs. There are small fundraisers and inter-community competitions such as Battle of the Bands and, more recently, Clash of the Bands in St James, which offer cash prizes that are put back into the bands' development.
The Sunday Gleaner ventured to Catherine Hall, St James, on Labour Day to sit in the stands of the Montego Bay Sports Complex and observe four developing marching bands and five advanced teams showcase their musical skills and uniformity. The inaugural staging of Clash of the Bands had finally come together after almost one year of planning by the organisers, the Lay Magistrates' Association and Sweetwater Blossom Foundation, as well as preparation of the bands. President of the St James Lay Magistrates' Association, Claudette Bryan, in welcoming the patrons, was pleased that the bands on display included 'a combination of youths from different strata of the society and what many know as at-risk communities'.
"We are trying to produce a good behavioural experience and, not only that, develop the gift and talents that our young people have in music so they can move forward in life. Whether professionally or for their entertainment, we want the marching bands to be used to enhance their social skills and then communities can be bonded through love of music," said Bryan.
The marching bands, although not including much of the dance choreography seen when they perform for parades, were graded on presentation, deportment, routine and time. The routines included music from various genres and featured the compositions of trombonist Don Drummond to the movements of Chronixx delivering "do it for the love and not the likes", which was a crowd favourite.
The CEO of the Sweetwater Blossom Foundation, Michelle Tinglin, said there are plans to have an all-island leg, so that bands can meet at one central location to compete. "We have seen where it has helped the communities in St James. If we take into consideration the age group, from 13 to 19 years old, that has been thought to be involved in criminal activities, then the competition is helping to keep over 800 youths focused on playing more positive roles," Tinglin said.
One resident of Rose Heights, St. James, told The Sunday Gleaner "all of last year all I could hear in my ears was 'pop-pop-pop', but now is the sweet sounds of the horns or 'rat-a-tat-tat' of the drums. All when the children them play the notes wrong it is better than the sounds of gunshots."
As part of the foundation's CPR campaign, it is hoped that Clash of the Bands will breathe new life into the communities and also help to bring the bands to the fore for greater opportunities for members to learn, receive scholarships and possibly act as mentors.