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Two young musicians off to Jamaica to study

Two young musicians off to Jamaica to study

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Two of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ prolific pannists left the state last week Firday to pursue university studies at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing arts in Kingston, Jamaica.{{more}}

For the next three years, Rodney Small, 20, and Reajhaun Baptiste, 23, will hone their craft as they undergo studies in Music Education and Popular Jazz Music. The two young men were awarded Government scholarships after expressing the desire to further their music careers.

Small, who is undoubtedly one of the most talented youngsters to play the instrument, was bubbling with excitement when he spoke with SEARCHLIGHT earlier this week. He disclosed that the scholarship gives him the opportunity to realise his childhood dream. “It is truly an honour for me to further my studies in this field and I am really excited about going to Jamaica,” he emphatically said.

After completing his secondary education at the Bishop’s College Kingstown, Small, employed at the Ministry of Culture, travelled to Canada to pursue studies in Music at university level. However, his dream was short-lived because of financial hurdles. Despite the setback, Rodney still maintained his love for the pan and remained one of this country’s ace players.

Having been introduced to the steel pan at the age of 10, Rodney, a member of the Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra, has always been in the media spotlight. He said that from the moment he picked up the pan sticks, he knew that he wanted to take it up professionally. “That is my aim right now. I want to become a well-rounded professional musician to help some of the young people like myself to develop further.” After completing his studies, the Murray’s Village resident says he hopes to start his own orchestra and help to produce music for local talent.

Like Small, Baptiste, employed at the Family Court, got his start with pan at the age of 10 years and never looked back. He has already declared that he will be taking his education seriously and will be hoping to develop his skills. A member of the Starlift and Rythmix Steel Orchestras, Reajhaun’s pan-playing talent did not come as a surprise. His mother, father and uncle were all pan players many years ago, so as fate would have it, he continued the family tradition. Reajhaun added that music has helped him a lot financially and throughout his secondary education. “Music is in my veins and I just can’t get enough of it because it helps to relax,” Baptiste said.

Although they belong to different pan sides, Rodney and Reajhaun have established their own steel pan company called Sensational, Impressive and Reliable. The dynamic duo noted that they would like to see the steel pan become a prominent fixture on the schools’ curriculum. “The only way this

can be developed is if this country helps to train persons professionally to carry our music further,” they stated.

They have both traveled all over the Caribbean, with Rejhaun reaching as far as Africa under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture as a solo pannist at a world youth forum in 2007.

The best friends have both reached the pinnacle of the pan world here in St Vincent and the Grenadines by copping titles. Just this year, Rodney was the arranger for Sion Hill Euphonium’s junior pan side, which was victorious in the Junior Panorama.

Both men thanked God for helping them and also Minister of Culture Rene´ Baptiste and Permanent Secretary Sandra Davis for the tremendous support given. Rodney also thanked his mother Gloria Small, Tilal Webb, Ashley Kirby, Sean Jack, Warren Knights, Errol “Sardo” Sutherland and his mentor Kevin Rodriguez for their support throughout the years. (KW)

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