Glee of music festival

The Armonias Divinas parang group (Bishop Anstey High School) performs at the TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, St. Ann's. - Photo by Faith Ayoung
The Armonias Divinas parang group (Bishop Anstey High School) performs at the TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, St. Ann's. - Photo by Faith Ayoung

THE MINISTRY of Tourism, Culture and the Arts must be commended for its sponsorship of the Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival, which began at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, last month and continues at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, on March 4.

The enchanting performances thus far have been stirring reminders of the need for wider participation by the corporate sector, parents, teachers and even the public.

It is easy to be jaded by youths. When they rise to the occasion they should be encouraged.

Yet these days, instead of things looking upwards for the festival, the only things rising are the musical notes onstage.

Despite the preliminaries being made virtual, the number of participants has declined. The number of people in the audiences has fallen. So too, it would seem, has the festival’s cachet. Sponsorship is dwindling.

What is particularly dispiriting is the fact that low attendance comes notwithstanding ticket prices ranging from just $10-$20 for children and $40 for adults. According to organisers, these pennies are needed to help defray costs for venues and adjudicators.

Yet some estimates suggest ticket revenues account for less than three per cent of the total budget.

It may be that officials wish to send a message to children about the value of art and that, in life, nothing is free. But the time, trouble and expense involved in collecting, recording and tracking such negligible receipts may well outweigh their justification.

The deeper issue, however, is why interest in the festival is falling.

Some have suggested the timing of exams plays a role.

However, like the biannual festival itself, which is in its 35th edition, exams have always been around. In fact, the need to de-stress before and after tests used to be a reason why there were higher levels of participation.

What should be asked is: are there enough trained music teachers in our schools? Are people who study music formally returning to this country to teach?

Do schools, already facing mounting challenges – student violence, pandemics, a troubling security situation – have the luxury to focus on music?

Can families today afford to buy instruments and send children to music lessons?

So many students who have sung at the festival have gone on to successful local and international careers, including figures like Kees Dieffenthaller and Nessa Preppy.

While music is by no means a straightforward career path, the popularity of TV series like Glee and musical films like Mean Girls, The Color Purple, and Bob Marley: One Love – not to mention the obvious, our own Carnival – attest to a world of possibilities.

The festival has a role in inspiring students to see such futures. It should be supported more.


"Glee of music festival"

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