NYOJ mounts concert for Canada tour
Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
In recent weeks, Amoya Hylton, 15, has been taking her violin lessons very seriously. The Vauxhall High School student has been travelling to Kingston College (KC) for lessons every day after school, and on Saturdays, and has not missed one of the two-and-a-half-hour-long classes.
Her hard work has paid off. She leaves for Canada in August - on her first trip abroad - to perform in the cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
"I'm glad I'm going," she told The Gleaner on Sunday.
"It's going to be an exciting experience."
Amoya is one of 25 members of National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ), who will be on tour.
The group presented a Canada Dream Tour concert last Sunday on the lawn of the Canadian high commissioner's residence Seymour Avenue, St Andrew.
Playing under the spreading branches of a Bombay mango tree and augmented by several of their tutors (all professional musicians), the NYOJ delighted an audience of well-wishers with a variety of musical items.
Most were by composers of classical music, but popular pieces like By the Rivers of Babylon, Man in the Mirror and If I Had The Wings of a Dove were also part of the evening's repertoire.
In addition to music from the full NYOJ orchestra, the audience heard from two adult string quartets. One included viola player Ann McNamee, the NYOJ's musical director, who is spearheading the Canadian tour.
The others in the quartet were Darren Young (violin), Rafiq Williams (violin) and Alistair Drummond Petrie (cello).
McNamee and Young both tutor Amoya in her classes at KC, which she started in January last year.
She refers to them as 'Aunt Ann' and 'Uncle Darren', an indication of the family feeling engendered among the NYOJ students.
They are given lessons at five NYOJ centres in the Corporate Area and Spanish Town, and students from eight schools will be touring Canada.
The schools are KC, St Andrew Technical, St George's College, Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha), Camperdown, Excelsior, Clan Carthy and Vauxhall High.
Commenting on his experience with the students, Peter Ashbourne, a tutor, told The Gleaner, "It's so nice to see the kids breathing life back into classical music in Jamaica."
McNamee said some of her students displayed exceptional potential and she found them to be self-motivated.
"One of the students going to Canada," she said, "only began playing music in January."
Music to be featured on the tour, she added, will include compositions by Jamaicans Orville Hammond, Ted Runcie, who lives in Korea, Paulette Bellamy, the Cuban-Jamaican Rafael Salazar and Young.
The NYOJ, which started in 2009, is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that uses classical music education as a tool to inspire, empower and enhance the lives of at-risk Jamaican youth. It has already influenced the lives of more than 1,000 students.
One of them is KC student Jordon Crawford, who, near the closing of Sunday's concert, recited his poem about his love for the NYOJ. He called the group his "new family".
The pre-concert speakers were His Excellency Robert Ready, Canada's High Commissioner to Jamaica; the NYOJ chairman, Senator Dr Nigel Clarke, and McNamee.
From Clarke, the audience heard that much of the financial and logistical support for the tour came from the Canadian and Jamaican chapters of Friends of the NYOJ.