Jenais Carter has never known a life without music. But she did not come to appreciate the benefits of the artform until she became an adult.
Born to parents who are both teachers and heavily involved in music, Carter's list of involvement in the artform is long, especially when it comes to the steelpan. At 25, she has already played with South East Port of Spain Steel Orchestra, Is We Steel Orchestra, Tipica Steel Orchestra, Exocubs and Exodus, Revelation Institute for Performing Education, the Codrington Pan Family, Gonzales Sheikers, and Starlift Steel Orchestra, among others. "I play the guitar and tenor pan, but I can play all," she told WMN.
Her musical ability, though, is not exclusive to the pan. She plays the conga drums in her family's parang band, Amantes de Parranda; teaches music theory, steelpan and beginner's piano at her brother's music school, Total Percussion; and has launched her own talent management company, Jencar.
"I do bookings, social media management for people in the creative and cultural industry, and I provide administrative services. Among her clients are soca artist Naila Blackman, songwriter and artiste Mical Teja, and vocalists Savi Sav and Reece. "I also work with Jameel Bellerand, a creative director in film and videography. I am his production manager for projects like music videos and documentaries. I help organise the projects." The administrator of her family's charitable organisation, The Carter Foundation, said her family's long-standing involvement in the industry has saved her having to put too much time and effort into marketing and advertising. "My family has been a part of the cultural landscape for so long that the network I needed was already there. Most of my marketing has been through word of mouth."
The Carter Foundation was started in 2016 to assist people in the cultural sector with scholarships for studies. Amantes de Parranda will host a show, Somos, this evening at the Kaiso Blues Cafe.
Carter told WMN that Jencar had always been an idea and was launched before she had intended to. "I like progression and before Jencar was launched I felt like my life was stagnant. I was working with Naila at the time but I wasn't sure of what I wanted, wasn't sure of what was next." Her friend and mentor Jelan Cumberbatch of JC Management, pushed her in the direction of talent management and, "things started to happen. I still had self doubts, but Jencar was launched in November last year."
Her responsibilities to her clients include making bookings, organising schedules, dealing with calls and emails, social media management and contracts. "I do not have a legal background so I go to entertainment lawyers for advice. But I do read up a lot on the subject and look at documentaries." Her social media skills, she said, are self taught. "I observe, try to keep up with trends. I like things to look a certain way, so I also focus on artist developmental goals." Her long term goal for Jencar is for it to serve as an umbrella company that supplies all the needs of the creative and cultural industry.
Despite her lifelong involvement in music, though, Carter's appreciation for it didn't come until she was well into her tertiary studies. "Growing up in a musical family, dad was my first pan teacher, and I continued with other orchestras. I also danced with the La Chapelle Dance Company, and there came a time when I had to make a choice between music and dance. I chose music but I still didn't see the love for it. I was just doing it because." In her second year of the BA in music at the University of the West Indies (UWI) , St Augustine campus that she found the love for something she had been doing all her life.
"All through secondary school and my early UWI years I was a procrastinator. Then in my final year I don't know what happened. Maybe it was some sort of intervention. It was amazing." This new motivation led her into the soca circle and she has never looked back. "My thesis looked at younger producers and how they have changed the landscape of music. That and my passion for culture led to me helping to organise performances of soca artistes in the 2017 Soca Monarch finals." After Carnival she took some time to refocus on her studies and as soon as she handed in her last assignment she answered the soca circle call. "I love it. I guess I adapted some of my mom's band management traits in that sense," she chuckled.
But her new-found appreciation for music did not stop there.
"I realised that studying music made me into a critical thinker. Now, I always try to find different ways to fix one problem and I want to pass that on to young people. Additionally, art, in any form is expressive and children need it to channel their emotions." But although she is a certified music teacher, Carter believes the existing educational system is not the right place for her.
"I didn't want to go into the system because I believe the system kills creativity and passion. But I do know that I want to keep teaching," and learning. Her long-term goals in her personal development is to pursue her master's and PhD at UWI.
"Dr Carter does have a nice ring to it," she said.