Fri | Dec 4, 2020

The hand behind the music

Published:Tuesday | August 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Karen Smith and Peter Ashbourne thrilled the audience at the Motor Sales Mitsubishi launch at the Jamaica Pegasus on Tuesday. - file

Jamaican composer, Peter Ashbourne, to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Peter Ashbourne is a composer in the genre of New Jamaican Classical music. His ingenious compositions and remarkable musical acumen feature widely throughout national ceremonies and popular media. He has been musical director for the opening of World Cup Cricket, The Jamaica Music Industry Awards, and the Rising Stars (later Stars) competitions since its inception. Furthermore, he has directed at the prime minister's Gala concerts and for the Grand Independence galas in 2008, 2009, and at the Golden Gala this month.

At this year's Grand Gala, he assisted the musical director, Michael Sean Harris, by composing the music for the opening number and arranging a variety of programme highlights including the National Anthem for choir and orchestra, I Saw My Land in the Morning, Fi Mi Love Have Lion Heart, One Blood, and This is the Land of My Birth.

He also conducted the Jamaica 50 orchestra at all rehearsals and during the main performance.

Ashbourne is a Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music in violin and a graduate of the Jamaica School of Music and the University of the West Indies. He received a bachelor's degree in composition and arranging from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He has composed several works for orchestra, string quartet, wind, voice, and solo instruments. Ashbourne has also written, arranged, and produced the music for several popular artistes such as Miss Lou, Ernie Smith, A.J. Brown, Karen Smith, and the University Singers. His own feature album, Blind Man Swimming, was released in 2001.

The composer has held workshops on Jamaican music (ska and reggae) at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, and at the University of Southern Maine. He is also a faculty member at the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Just weeks ago, Ashbourne was honoured with the Order of Distinction - Commander class, the crowning glory to his long list of accolades.

Ashbourne's projects include a music theory book on Jamaican popular music styles and a reggae opera, inspired by the life of the late Jamaican dub poet Mikey Smith, which will be introduced to audiences in Jamaica in October.

This September, Ashbourne will conduct the legendary Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) during the group's Jamaican performances on September 13 and 15. The programme will feature his original compositions, Jubilee and Ring Games, which was commissioned by the European Union Chamber Orchestra and performed during its visit to the island, and Jamaika Folk, which the composer penned at just 13 years old.

The RPO's visit to Jamaica is being organised by the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ), a non-profit organisation, with sponsorship from Digicel, NCB Capital Markets Limited, and Supreme Ventures Limited. These events are officially endorsed and listed under the Jamaica 50 celebrations.

For further information on these events, contact the NYOJ at, or 561-6252.