Ju-ne Thomas, 23, of Calder Hall, is on a quest to give gospel music a place of eminence in the Tobago music industry by winning the Emerge Gospel Challenge.
Thomas is the lone Tobagonian left in the competition which is being hosted in Trinidad for the first time. The event, hosted in Antigua for the last three years, was founded by Trinidadian multi award-winning Gospel artiste, Sherwin Gardner.
From over 200 video submissions received from across the country in February, Thomas was selected to be in the among 15 contestants to compete for a grand prize of $25, 000, a management contract with Glow Entertainment, delivering the opening performance at the Glow Tobago gospel concert in September at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex and at the FAMfest Music Festival in the Bahamas, as well as an EP (record deal) produced by award winning producers Fisherman Project, Audio Predators and Flow Masters Records. The EP will be mixed and mastered by Calvin “Food” Venus from Houston, Texas, USA.
Thomas was successful in five live shows in which a different challenge was posed to each contestant every week appearing before a panel of three judges.
She said, “I feel very proud to represent Tobago, this shows Tobago has a lot of talent.
“Trinidad is the place to be especially in the gospel area, Tobago on the other hand has its own small industry but it is somewhat at a disadvantage as sometimes we always have to be back and forth. So for me to be there to representing the gospel industry for Tobago, it is a blessing and a step for other aspiring Tobago gospel singers.”
Her major challenge is travelling back and forth to Trinidad but she has so managed to stay on top of her game.
“Sometimes the crew would message us to say they have filming on Saturday, it’s difficult for me to just up and go to get there in time. Most times when I finally get there, my body is physically drained from the long wait. (But) This has not affected my performance and I am now doing what I have to master my final performance in July,” she said.
The final competition will be hosted at Central Bank Auditorium, Port-of-Spain on July 8t at 6pm. The Emerge Gospel Challenge winner will be chosen based on a combination of votes from the judges and the audience.
Thomas is hoping Tobagonians will take the time to support her. While she doesn’t know that Tobagonians would be willing to travel to Trinidad to cast their vote, she is asking for a show of support with persons visiting the show’s website - emergetrinidad.com – and voting by selecting the box with her name on it. A vote can also be placed by hashtagging “supportjujuforemerge” on the Emerge Trinidad Facebook page and also on Instagram.
“Tobago must show what it is capable of, this competition is creating a buzz and to be the only Tobagonian something tremendous, showing us as a people with amazing talent,” Thomas said.
“This competition has opened my eyes on how much talent there is out there, and it has shown me that even though you might be good at what you’re doing, there are so many people with similar extraordinary gifts. I realise that I now have to constantly develop my craft to stand out,” she said.
Thomas, an employee with the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA), began singing at age of 14, at church events and at home in her free time. She made her debut as a professional vocalist with Forward the Band, founded by Tobago musicians, and has shared the stage at concerts with international Nigerian gospel songwriter and singer Sinach, international gospel minister and singer Jonathan Nelson, Travis Green and international Multi Award Winning Gospel singer/ songwriter Hellen Baylor.
The final show and reruns of past editions of the Emerge Gospel Challenge can be viewed live on Facebook ACTM The Voice page at 6:30pm every Sunday.