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Orchestrated gift - US musicians to train National Youth Orchestra

Published:Tuesday | June 4, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Members of the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ) performing at the International Women's Forum 2013 Cornerstone Conference, 'Music - an Instrument of Change', at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, on Friday. - Photo by Janet Silvera
Pamela Bridgewater, United States Ambassador to Jamaica. - File

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

The National Youth Orchestra (NYOJ) is set to benefit from a series of training sessions and master classes with a group of 13 musicians from The Kennedy Centre Opera House/Washington National Opera Orchestra, The Louisville (Kentucky) Orchestra, The United States Air Force Strings, and the United States Army Strings.

The training will run from June 11 to 13 and there will be two concerts which will be open to the public - one in Kingston and the other in Mandeville, Manchester. The Kingston concert will be held on Wednesday, June 12, at the Mona Chapel, University of the West Indies (UWI) at 6:30 p.m. The Mandeville leg is on Thursday, June 13, at 12:30 p.m. in the main auditorium of the Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

The group will perform the works of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Barber, Mendelssohn, Dvorák, William Grant Still, and Chevalier de Saint-Georges, among others.

Both events will be free to the public, said United States of America (USA) Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater last Friday in Montego Bay, St James.

The Kennedy Centre's Opera House Orchestra is one of the world's most renowned and revered group of musicians. Resident orchestra for the Kennedy Centre, it provides the music for most of the ballet and musical productions which take place at there. The orchestra has provided training for a number of musicians worldwide and will be making its first trip to Jamaica as a gift to the country's young musicians.

The NYOJ is a non-profit non-governmental organisation (NGO) that utilises music as an anti-crime initiative to empower some of Jamaica's most susceptible youth in volatile communities through classical music training and the development of youth orchestras.

Emphasis on the training

Its emphasis is on the training in and appreciation of American orchestral music through skills-based lessons and practical music abilities. The organisation recruits at-risk youth from between 10 and 18 years old from schools in some of the country's most volatile communities such as St Alban's Primary, Denham Town Primary, Denham Town Comprehensive High, Trench Town High, and Tivoli Gardens Comprehensive High schools.

In an interview with The Gleaner at the International Woman's Forum (IWF) Cornerstone Conference in Montego Bay last Friday, Ambassador Bridgewater explained that the monetary support the NYOJ received in the past has now diminished. The US Embassy has decided to step in to help sustain the mission of empowering Jamaican youth.

"Music is an instrument of change ... . It can bring you to a certain level of interconnectivity, to bring people together, and we are so happy that we have the resources to make this happen," she said. "Through engaging at-risk youth in musical skills-based lessons, students learn practical musical abilities as well as life skills, teamwork, discipline, and goal orientation."

The NYOJ hopes to expand the music programme to serve as many communities as possible in the island in a bid to combat crime and antisocial behaviour among youth.

Through support from the embassy, the Organisation of American States, and other charitable donors, the NYOJ has since been able to expand its programme to construct a second NYOJ training centre, which has been launched at Kingston College's Melbourne Campus. The NYOJ's first training centre was established in September 2009 with St Andrew Technical High School. At-risk youth 10-18 years old were recruited from schools in the surrounding communities.

In 2012, the Public Affairs Section at the US Embassy Kingston awarded NYOJ a US$30,000 grant to expand its free music-training programme in the Trench Town, west Kingston area, with an emphasis on appreciation of American orchestral music. NYOJ secured American teaching material and repertoire. In early 2013, the Embassy Military Liaison Office donated 42 instruments to the NYOJ and that directly supported the expansion of the programme.