St Francois Girls' dominated at a joint calypso showcase with Queen’s Royal College (QRC) on Thursday.
The contest included two categories, calypso and soca, and students sang both original songs and cover versions. The event, at QRC, Queen's Park West, was filled with excited students.
Speaking with Newsday, Valene Cotton, who won the show with 183 points with her cover of Singing Sandra’s War Goes On, saying she first heard the song when she was sang backing vocals for the Malick Folk Performers.
The Form Four student began practising for the competition about two weeks earlier, and said her favourite thing about the day was the camaraderie between the two schools.
She is excited for Panorama on Saturday, as she will be playing with BP Renegades.
“I play three cellos and pan. I love the traditional mas,” she said.
She plans on a career in the performing arts when she finishes school, and her advice to other young people is for them to follow their dreams.
In second place was Jalila Best with her cover of Denyse Plummer’s Nah Leaving, with 171 points, and Brehanna Ryan took third place with 158 points with her cover of Machel Montano’s Soul of Calypso.
Ryan, a form five student, said she loves pan and plays tenor and bass, telling Newsday she began her preparations for the show about a week before. She wants to be a graphic designer.
Guests were entertained with traditional mas, including the dame lorraine, midnight robbers, baby doll, sailors, fancy Indian, the lively blue devils, jab molassie, jab jab, gatkas, minstrel and fancy clowns, throughout the event.
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly attended, and was seated with American actor Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable in TV's Cosby Show, former president of Howard University Dr Wayne Frederick, who was born in Trinidad, and Minister in the Ministry of Education Lisa Morris-Julian.
Gadsby-Dolly called the show excellent, saying it was a wonderful presentation of culture from young people.
“There was a wide range of ole mas, calypso, soca and pan. It shows the arts are alive and well in schools, particularly our patriotic arts,” she said.
She said Frederick and Rashad were "blown away" by the pupils' engagement with the arts.
"Our culture really is so important. It's part of the cultural transformation that we've been speaking about at the ministry and we have to put more emphasis on it, because we are trying to create the ideal citizen. Patriotism is a big part of what makes a well-rounded citizen."
Gadsby-Dolly said pan holds a special place for her, as she played, and her daughter will be competing on Saturday at Panorama.
QRC Upper Six student Makhai Yange, who ushered guests to their seats, said he enjoyed the show, specifically the blue devils, and is looking forward to J’Ouvert.
“I think these friendly competitions between schools should be held throughout the year; it doesn’t have to be only calypso or soca."
Josiah Francis, who played double tenor for the Provi-QRC Pan Ensemble during an intermission, said he enjoyed the festivities and is looking forward to J’Ouvert on Monday, saying it is his favourite part of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.