There was a sense of pride, joy and achievement among the participants of the Birdsong Academy’s Music Vacation Camp closing concert on Saturday evening at Queen’s Hall in St Anns.
This was the 16th edition of the closing concert where over 100 students participated in voice, brass, guitar, steelpan and percussion.
The theme of this year’s concert was Resilience and according to director Dennis Phillip, “At the camp the focus was on building resilience. We tried to impart to the children the lesson that resilience is all about the choices they make after the inevitable setbacks and disappointments faced on life’s journey.
“The maxim for the closing concert is lighting a spark of resilience to blaze into a flame of musical excellence.”
The concert truly blazed into musical excellence when the academy orchestra (pan and brass) performed New World Symphony arranged and conducted by Jesus Bertram Acosta.
They received a standing ovation from some very proud parents. This was the first time in 14 years founder of the orchestra Richard Quarless was not present. He is currently recovering from major surgery.
But it goes to show the great job he has done with the students as they have now stepped in and continued his work seamlessly.
Before that exciting performance, the small ensemble dedicated their performance to the late Raf Robertson a former tutor and creator of the ensemble. They were led by Derrianne Dyett and included Nyol Manswell, Isoke Noel, Jasmine Adams and Nicholas Jones among others. Frankie McIntosh was a guest player with the ensemble.
The packed Queen’s Hall audience saw performances by the junior pan, junior wind and brass, guitars, percussion, chamber choir, full choir and the academy steel and academy brass. Manswell was the master of ceremonies.
It cost Birdsong over $150,000 to put on the camp for 110 students and they had to raise the money for themselves to make the camp a success. Birdsong Academy was founded in 2004 with the goal of addressing the lack of music education opportunities. To date more than 1,500 young persons have benefited from the programme. All instructions and instruments are provided by Birdsong and the programme is aimed at youth aged 12-18.
The objectives of the programme are universal access, music literacy certification, structures techniques, live performances, general music and steelpan history, personal development, social integration skills, steelpan instrument instruction and traditional instrument instruction.
The programme can be accessed after school, on Saturdays and during the school vacation. In 2009 a scholarship programme was introduced for students with the talent, discipline and desire to pursue quality tertiary education.
So far Manswell (Berklee School of Music, USA), Derrianne (Codarts University of the Arts, Rotterdam), Alisha Wallace (Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia) and Nicholas Jones (University of Southern Mississippi, USA) have participated in this programme.
Additionally, more than 40 of Birdsong alumni have been able to pursue university education at local and regional institutions and over 30 of the past students have gone on to rewarding careers in various national service music bands including the Police, Defence Force, Fire Service and Prisons.
Here are some highlights from Saturday’s concert.