MUSICIAN and jazz singer Vaughnette Bigford is proving that bigger than her voice is her heart.
Bigford has discovered an abundance of untapped cultural talent in the community of La Brea, where she lives, and now she wants to tap into it to give the young people in whom the talent reside, a future.
The talent resides, for a large part, among the economically challenged members of her community. Knowing how culture changed her life, Bigford wants to help the uninitiated recognise and realise their full potential and so gain competitive advantage in the world of culture.
“It has been my aim to open and manage a school for the arts in my village of La Brea, where I was raised and still live,” she said in an interview.
“I know what the arts did for me as a teenager and I know that I would not have developed into the person/artist I am today without that exposure. I would love to be able to provide a space for the children in my village to experience the same.”
Standing in the way of realising her dream is getting a suitable venue to initiate the project. The La Brea community centre, the only suitable venue in the district, is not now available.
“Right now, the La Brea Community Centre is in a state of disrepair. The point of this whole thing is to have options available for children in this area. It would be easy for me to do it in Point Fortin, because there are venues there, but I don’t want to go out of La Brea.
“If I do that, some of these children would be left out, because their parents can’t really give them money to pay for their transport. So I want to keep it in La Brea.”
Bigford, a former Petrotrin employee, said she is in talks with the Vessigny Community Centre to use that facility until the La Brea Community Centre is repaired.
“Because some of the children would be able to walk from La Brea to Vessigny.”
While there is no confirmation as yet, she said talks have been favourable.
The plan is to start classes in September, covid19 allowing, on a Saturday from 9 am-3 pm, for those 11-18 years old.
“I will tackle the younger children at a later date. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew at this moment.”
She plans to hold classes in nine-month cycles with the aim of a presentation/concert after each cycle.
“This is to keep them interested and encouraged to be actually working towards something they can present.”
It will also be an opportunity for the families of the students and the public to witness for themselves the abundance of talents which abounds in the community and their children.
Students will be trained in music theory, voice lessons, dance and drama.
“I would teach them how to read music and do voice tutoring. I have some other tutors for each discipline, and as time goes by, I will be accepting those who have offered their services. I want to extend it eventually to visual arts, but I am waiting to see how this goes first.”
Bigford has opened a Go Fund Me TT page, primarily because she wants to provide meals for the potential students.
Speaking about the abject poverty in the community, she said, “A lot of them, I am telling you, especially those inside La Brea, the Coffee down by the beach – half of the time those children are eating one meal for the day, whatever their mothers can scrape up. That is the honest truth.
“I don’t want there to be any deterrent in terms of parents telling them, ‘You can’t go because I have nothing to give you to eat,’ you understand. If it means I have to go and pick up the children and let their parents know while they are in class they will have something nutritious to eat, I will do that.”
She said quite a few people who were born and raised in La Brea and are now living in other parts of the world have said they are willing to help and she will be taking up their offers.
Exactly how the classes will be structured is yet to be fully explored but Bigford is certain of one thing: “If I have to start it in my garage, I starting it.
“I have been saying I am going to do it, that I am looking for a nice building, but I have some teenagers who were involved in the talent show I held last year and they keep asking me, ‘Miss Vaughnette, when we doing something again?’ I feel badly because these are children who are interested. There is not much happening, culturally, in the schools around the area either. Long time, schools used to be planning for the San Fernando Arts festival, but not now.”
From the talent show, she said, she discovered “untapped, organic talent from among just wonderful, exuberant teenagers and younger ones. All very, very talented and if that talent is channelled and harnessed, I am telling you they are going to move mountains.
“I see these young people all the time and you could tell they have the energy – but no place to focus it.”
She said too many young people are going astray because they have no opportunity to develop their innate skills.
“I just want to provide a space because I know the importance of the arts. I know what the arts did for me as a teenager in terms of channelling my energy and focusing on a career path. I was a more disciplined person because I was in the creative arts sector. I want to give others that chance.”
Bigford said she would love for others to partner with her.
“No contribution is too small.”
You can find out more about Bigford at her website www.vaughnettebigford.com