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Hope made of steel - 60 MoBay youths to benefit from new music band

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The lives of some 60 unemployed youths in the communities of Cornwall Court and Green Pond in St James are expected to be transformed with the formation of a steel band. The initiative is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Tourism as part of the Spruce Up Jamaica programme.

Dubbed the Pon De Corner project, the aim is to use the stimulus of music to steer at-risk youths into creative and economically viable activities.

In outlining plans for the project, coordinator of the Spruce Up Jamaica programme, Marline Stephenson-Dalley, explained, "The project is aimed at opening up several new avenues for those involved, as we at Spruce Up Jamaica are determined to take as many youths as possible off the (street) corners and provide them with something tangible to do."

Stephenson-Dalley said steel drums would be acquired from Trinidad and Tobago, while a separate drum set and bass guitar would be sourced locally. All the equipment is expected to be procured at a cost of $1.3 million through the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

"We are really looking forward to hearing the first note being played and to the youngsters exhibiting their creative talents," the Spruce Up coordinator said.

grown in recognition

Richard Reid, his brother Morris Reid and Lynval Allen are all 24-year veterans at playing steel drums and have undertaken to train residents aged 15-30. They are also members of the well-known Rhythm Force Steel Band, which has consistently grown in recognition over the years and has become a main item in the entertainment packages offered by several hotels along the north coast.

"It was the steel drums which assisted me in earning funds to send myself through university in Trinidad," said Richard, now a trained engineer.

"We (members of the Rhythm Force Steel Band) are proud products of the music form and are confident that, apart from providing an activity for idle hands, this can be economically viable with several hotels seeking to add this music form to their entertainment offering."

He said the plan is to assign five to 10 players to each instrument, who will then be trained and monitored by members of the Rhythm Force Steel Band for three months, in the first instance. At the end of that period, the students will be assessed to determine their competence.

President of the Cornwall Court Citizens' Association, Neville Allen, is upbeat about the establishment of the band.

"We welcome the idea and look forward to the role which it will play in engaging the youths of our communities. We have already started to put income-generating ideas in place, which will ensure that the band becomes self-sustainable," he said.

The Cornwall Court/Green Pond initiative is one of several Pon De Corner projects being undertaken by Spruce Up Jamaica. Other areas set to benefit include: Wiltshire on the border of St James and Trelawny; Great Bay, St Elizabeth; Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay; Papine, St Andrew; and Buckfield in Ocho Rios, St Ann.