IT takes $1 million to stage the Music Festival, but this year, the TT Music Festival Association finds itself significantly short of that amount.
“Music Festival is an incubator for nurturing and growing local talent. It’s a big part of our children’s education and should be something that is funded by the Education and Culture ministries and corporate social responsibility,” Sheriba Ali-Rajack, the association’s treasurer, told Newsday.
Every year, the Ministry of Culture gives the festival $100,000, but Ali-Rajack said that is only enough to manage administrative expenses, not the actual festival.
The festival is held biennially, with the first taking place 70 years ago. Ali-Rajack has been campaigning and cajoling corporations to contribute to the festival, and yesterday Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Ltd answered the call with a $125,000 donation — the largest sponsor contribution for this year.
“Despite the downturn in the energy sector, and the economic challenges facing the country as a whole, we still feel these sorts of events that showcase young people are important and need funding,” Dennis Patrick, MHTL’s CEO, said. The company’s CSR focus, added chief financial officer Nello Ramkissoon, is education, youth development and culture — MHTL was a founding member of the National Energy Skills Centre, and also sponsors Starlift Steel Orchestra and the St Margaret’s Youth Steel Orchestra.
This is the second time that MHTL has come to the rescue of the Music Festival. In 2016, after an appeal for funding appeared in the press, MHTL willingly provided the shortfall of some $115,000.
“They pulled us out of a hole and we are grateful to them for continuing the relationship to help us go forward,” Ali-Rajack said.
Patrick added, “One way of giving back to this country is the development of young people. When we saw the article, and saw the Music Fest was struggling from a lack of finances, we knew we had to help. So many successful Trinidadian musicians have come out of this event and we want it to keep going.”
But despite MHTL’s contribution, as well as a $100,000 donation from Scotiabank TT and $20,000 from the TECU Credit Union, the festival still needs help.
Naparima Bowl, which hosts the southern competition, waived all fees for the use of the venue, while Queen’s Hall, which hosts the northern competition, gave the festival a 50 per cent discount — but still costs $51,000.
Ali-Rajack lamented the lack of support and interest from former participants who made it big, including the likes of soca superstars David Rudder, Machel Montano and Kees Dieffenthaller.
She also noted that ticket sales amounted to $150,000 in revenue, but there were still empty seats, especially among students, who have to get special permission from the Ministry of Education to leave school to support their peers.
“The Music Festival is a platform for these children, both in instrumental and voice. This year, we’ve added drumming and tassa. The international adjudicators are impressed with the wealth of talent of these children.
It is something we should nurture and support, even despite the downturn in the economy. I really think we shouldn’t be grasping every year,” Ali-Rajack said.
People who wish to contribute to the Music Festival can visit the association’s website and click on the “donate” tab.
The Music Festival 2018 runs until March 17.
For more info: www.ttmusicfestival.org