Funding their higher education was a concern for students even before covid19. Now, with the pandemic restricting the ways money can be earned, postgraduate students, Kory Mendez and Anton Williams have teamed up to earn funds for their postgraduate studies at UWI.
Both want to follow careers in fields they perceive as being beneficial to the future development of Trinidad and Tobago. They will put on a fundraising concert, as they have both made names for themselves in the classical and choral music fields.
Mendez, a lifelong Maraval resident, is doing an MSc in mediation studies. He said he chose this area because he works in insurance.
“Mediation is a process where trained, neutral persons, in a confidential setting, facilitate the negotiations of parties in dispute to help them arrive at their own resolutions to the dispute. My intention is to become a certified mediator and provide consultancy services to insurance companies to revolutionise how we deal with claims settlements. Motor-claim disputes are never-ending, and if insurance companies and disputants can find a meaningful way of settling disputes where they can mutually benefit in the long run, it is a win-win for everyone.”
He said the mediation field is beneficial to TT, as it can “potentially reduce the backlog in the court system as well as maintain a positive relationship between the disputing parties.”
Williams, 23, born and raised in Arouca, is doing postgraduate studies in tourism development and management, and said tourism has always been a second love for him.
“Seeing that the tourism and creative sector were the most severely affected by the pandemic, all hands will be required on deck on the revitalisation of these areas. As identified in the draft of the National Tourism Policy of TT 2020-2030, there is a drive to create and support major national events to generate tourism growth.”
He said TT can tap into its wealth of creative resources and start to build areas such as cultural and entertainment tourism.’“An example I always use is Carifesta XIV, as the creativity that was on display left visitors in awe. From the layout and design of the village in the Queen’s Park Savannah to the various events hosted throughout the festival, it goes to show that we have a strong cultural and creative product that should be thrust to the forefront.”
Both men said the pandemic had affected the way they attended school and took exams, especially with the switch to a virtual learning environment.
Mendez said his main challenge was adapting to online/distance learning, especially navigating the technology, and learning the etiquette of an online environment.
“The motivation to go to class was another challenge, as you can become 'Zoomed out' after a full day of work meetings followed by classes. I long for the classroom again, most interestingly, I have never had the physical opportunity to have the full postgraduate experience as a UWI student, and I anxiously await the resumption of in-person or hybrid classes so I can experience (them).”
Williams said he was in the final semester of his music degree in 2020 when the lockdown started, and it took him some time to adapt. He said while he has got used to the fully virtual approach, he longed to go back to in-person sessions.
“The greatest challenge was doing virtual vocal classes and juries/voice exams, competing with the background noises forcing one to record more than once to get the best quality, and completing my research project with limited access to physical libraries was a major challenge. My study was on the influence of the Spiritual Baptists on calypso music.”
Music has been a major part of both men’s lives for years. Mendez said his interest began at the Maraval RC Primary School, when music would start and end the day. He began choral singing in high school when he heard the Lydian Singers rehearsing. Though reluctant to be in the limelight, he joined the Lydians in late 2015 and performed in the Music Festival in early 2016.
“The Lydians bolstered my passion and love for the arts. Mentorship sessions with senior soloists Dr Edward Cumberbatch, Joanne Pyle and our current musical director Carl-Anthony Hines, among other, played an integral role in my growth as a musician. Last year I completed an artistic diploma in music performance under the mentorship of Dr Leah Brown, and I began vocal lessons with the most outstanding coloratura soprano Natalia Dopwell earlier on this year.”
Mendez had performed in the Music Festival, winning first-, second- and third-place trophies in several categories. In addition to the Lydian Singers, he has sung with the Picoplat Music Development Foundation, Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra, and Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.
Williams said he has always had a passion for music, having been exposed to many musical styles and genres growing up.
“I am appreciative of all genres of music. However, soca and calypso hold a special place in my heart. Growing up I was always writing songs and singing at small events. Though I enjoy singing, it’s not a skill I want to be actively known for. I do enjoy it, but I prefer directing and producing, behind-the-scenes work. I started playing pan in 2012 in secondary school, and my undergraduate degree was in musical arts (special) at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts UWI.”
He has performed with the UWI Arts Chorale under the directorship of Jessel Murray, and the Lydian Singers under Carl-Anthony Hines. He was a member of the UWI Arts Steel Ensemble and the UWI Arts African Drumming Ensemble.
Music has helped him survive the pandemic as well.
“I have been writing more music, which is also therapeutic for me. I have also ventured into doing short recordings of some of my arrangements and posted on social media in a series I called ‘Soca Shenanigans.'”
Their online concert is titled Hold On: The Story of Resilience. They said even though fundraising is the main intent, “This venture also seeks to keep the spirit of hope and resilience alive in our fellow Trinbagonians."The event is free, but they're inviting people to donate. The show will be streamed on YouTube on November 14 at 8pm.
How to help:
Donations can be made at Fundmetnt: Hold On: The Story of Resilience
Online bank transfer: MW Productions, First Citizens Bank (Savings Account) 2833326
Cheques: Make payable to MW Productions