Practical programmes for all seasons
This summer, Digital Technology meets Culture is being offered by the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), from July 4-29 at the university's Centre for the Arts. Musical Theatre is being offered by Avant Academy of Music, 66 Paddington Terrace, St Andrew. Classes will be held from August 8-26 at Shortwood Teachers' College and culminate in abridged musicals, Annie and Beauty and the Beast.
UTech's Director of the Arts Philip Clarke, told me the programme includes dance, drama, the visual arts and music (including songwriting). Lloyd Laing, executive director of Jamaica App Factory, provides a technology focus.
"He will be teaching classes in IT fundamentals, 2D animation, and video game creation. The students will write short stories on Jamaican history and heritage and then make them into video games," Clarke said.
He will be working with Laing to develop the programme into short courses at UTech. Clarke said Laing plans to offer similar courses in primary and high schools.
UTech is seeking sponsors for the summer course for youngsters in the Papine area, as part of the institution's community outreach. Clarke said the programme should contribute to the development of skilled workers in Jamaica's creative industry and building a Caribbean Cultural Centre at UTech.
Avant's founder and director, guitarist, composer and musical director, Seretse Small, told me the summer camp will serve as an introduction of Jamaica's first internationally certified programme in musical theatre, which begins mid-September with classes three hours a week for 12 weeks.
"We will be using the London College of Music syllabus and training our students for the college's examinations," said Small. The college, part of the University of Western London, offers graded examinations from grades one to eight in musical theatre, he said. The exams for early grades might last only 10 minutes, while the more difficult exams could last up to an hour.
"You can do contemporary music or Gilbert and Sullivan or reggae - almost anything up to grade six. After that, you focus on the core musical standards, like Broadway and [London's] West End fare and opera, etc," Small said.
Since its establishment in 2013, Avant has been getting students in or wanting to enter the music industry who were not equipped to study music formally. "Their aim was to be able to perform on the whim, to improvise, to amplify the vibe, using costumes, making music videos, telling jokes, providing entertainment. Our training was based on standard music models - like the Royal Schools of Music's - and it did not fit their needs," he said.
LEARNING TO BE
However, musical theatre allows the practitioner to not only learn to sing, dance and act, but also learn the skills to be artistic directors or part of a video production crew.
Helping Small with the summer camp and musical theatre programme are Jamaicans Neisha-yen Jones and Teisha Duncan, who have international training and performing experience. Among numerous other shows, both performed in the Broadway musical The Lion King.
An enthusiastic Jones said "musical theatre provides a wonderful use of all the artistic disciplines, and is the most holistic of the genres for self-expression."