Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Following your passion

Published:Sunday | October 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Musician Seretse Small (right) with ‘The Innovators’ hosts Yaneek Page and Gary Matalon.
Musician Seretse Small (right) with businessman and host of ‘The Innovators’, Gary Matalon.

Can you follow your passion and make money? It seems many international billionaires, including Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey, have managed it. But what does it look like when a Jamaican is doing just that?

Musician Seretse Small of Avant Academy of Music has made it his mantra to make money doing what he loves. He has combined his love of music and community building into a school that provides private music lessons. Avant offers guitar, piano, drums, violin and voice lessons. Lessons are often personalised to the unique needs and individual temperament of students, and are done on a one-on-one basis in air-conditioned comfort.

Avant Academy of Music represents an investment of some $9 million to date. This has been used to purchase equipment, pay salaries and promote the school. With some time and effort, they were able to secure a $3.1-million financing.

The outfit is also among the latest crop of entrepreneurs to benefit from the attention of 'The Innovators'. Speaking on his anticipation of the experience, Small tells Outlook, "We see this show as instrumental in helping to move our entity forward, by helping us to offer new programmes and improve our outreach."




Scholarship programmes are a top priority for the academy as it seeks to expand the opportunities to develop genuine music talent. Avant promotes through print and television ads, as well as direct marketing by setting up tables and booths at various events. They also put on concerts and use extensive social media marketing, along with the online Yellow Pages.

Born and raised in Jamaica to a Guyanese mother and Trinidadian father, Seretse started with a dream of seeing Jamaica become the live music capital of the world and set about putting his formidable experience as a performer and promoter towards realising that dream. A guitarist and composer, with more than 30 years' experience as a musician and educator, Seretse wants to continue building a world-class music college that offers professional degrees based on a solid research culture.




This is not Small's first foray into music-centred entrepreneurship. His previous company, Griot Music, focused on music publishing and also held the Jamaican franchise for the Global Battle of the Bands. Jamaica would notch two successes in the world finals of the competition with local bands Dubtonic Kru becoming the first to be crowned Best Band in The World, followed by Di Bluprint band, triumphing in each case against countries whose finalists had, in turn, overcome hundreds of other bands.

Through multiple live shows - both one-offs as well as recurring series at varied venues - Small has helped keep the live flame flickering, as evidenced by a number of live sessions at various venues around Kingston and across the island. Seretse's dream of live music centred in Jamaica may be much closer than ever imagined with Kingston having earned the distinguished recognition from UNESCO as a Creative City for Music.

The Innovators is a local reality business programme hosted by renowned entrepreneurs Yaneek Page and Gary Matalon. Each season, 10 participants (known as assignments) are featured, one assignment per episode, going to The Innovators for their guidance and expertise. This season's theme is 'The Community Innovators', and looks at helping businesses that already have an impact on their community as well as those who have the potential to have community impact.