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Music is Marla Nanton’s life

Music is Marla Nanton’s life


To Marla Nanton, music is more than just her first love. It’s life.

Nanton is this country’s first female steel pan arranger to take a band to the National Pan Festival.{{more}}

But this 31-year-old is just getting started.

“I can’t imagine my life without music. It has made me very methodical and detailed … If I didn’t have music in my life, I don’t think I would have been as outstanding as I am today. I just think music helps to complement me…” Nanton said.

The Ratho Mill music enthusiast, daughter of Anita and Oswald Nanton, is a programme producer in the Education Media Unit of the Ministry of Education.

And besides having a full-time job, Nanton wears multiple hats, musically.

She is the musical director of the Scotia Bank South East Steel Orchestra and the founder of Groove VS, a group that provides vocal service for Vincy Mas, particularly calypsos.

Her group was also awarded “Best Back Vocal Group” in 2010 by the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC).

With a musical background spanning over two decades, Nanton took SEARCHLIGHT on a trip down memory lane, describing how it all began.

At the tender age of seven, while a student at the Kingstown Preparatory School, Nanton said she started her musical journey by playing the piano with renowned Vincentian musician Patrick Prescod. After a few years of playing the piano, Nanton began playing the clarinet, which led her to play in the Girl Guide Association band for a number of years.

However, it was while at the Girls’ High School (GHS) that her talent blossomed. While there, she participated in the school’s choir. She also played the clarinet for the school’s band and later moved on to play the tenor pan in the school’s steel orchestra.

In her final year at school, she was given the opportunity to lead the band in the capacity of captain.

Nanton’s penchant for the steel pan grew so much that while she was a student at the Community College in 2000, the then 19-year-old and some of her contemporaries formed the Rythmix Steel Orchestra.

Nanton served as the first president of the band, before leaving for New York to commence her university studies in 2003.

In 2007, the band rose to prominence when they won the National Panorama Title.

Apart from successfully completing a Bachelors of Arts Degree in communication, Nanton also holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts (music) degree from the State University of New York (SUNY). She received the Dean’s Award for outstanding achievement in music at the 7th annual Arts and Science Academic Awards Ceremony.

It was while at university that her interest in composition and arrangement grew. She began composing and arranging music for pan in small ensembles.

“Music was always with me. I even had a steelpan in my room where I was studying and would do gigs sometimes…” Nanton recounted.

Coming from a rich musical background, Nanton said she was really pushed into music by her mother, who is the resident organist at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Calliaqua.

“She (mother) made sure I learned the piano. Then the Guides’ band came about and that is where I learned to play the clarinet and she sent me to a programme that Potential Steel Orchestra had and that is where I learned how to play the pan.”

Some of her musical influences include Patrick Prescod, music teacher at GHS Donna Clarke and former headmistress at the GHS and director of the Kingstown Chorale Jeanne Horne.

Nanton also mentioned the late Hugh Huggins, clarinet teacher as one of her influences.

Describing music as a “jealous love”, Nanton said once you are serious about music, you have to commit a lot of your time to practising.

“I love music to the core and if music was a lucrative industry in St Vincent, I would have been a musician by profession. The only reason why I pursued a double path was because I was uncertain about what music would yield for me … There is no question about it, music is the thing I love more than anything else in this world,” she declared.

She said her love of music has helped her to build her confidence, self-esteem and helped her to learn how to cooperate.

“Music makes you socially adaptable. It makes you learn the art of compromise. You get to meet people, so you basically become like a social butterfly…”

Since taking up music, Nanton has done multiple performances on different instruments throughout the country, including at church services, cultural events and other functions.

In 2001, as part of Rythmix, they performed at their musical festival in Fort-de-France, Martinique.

Nanton has also given private piano lessons to many children, ages 5 and 12, in St Vincent and Mustique. She has also taught music part time at the GHS.

On April 26 and 27, 2012, Nanton and South East put on a successful production called “Hearts of Steel” at the Aquatic Club.

That, however, was just the opening note of things to come.

In this country’s 50 years of Carnival, Nanton was the first female arranger to lead a pan side, during Vincy Mas 2012.

She now stands in line with the few females who arrange music for steel band in the Caribbean.

As for her future plans, Nanton said she sees herself rising as the one of the best arrangers.

“I do realise I still have plenty of work to do, seeing as I am one of the youngest in the business.”

Nanton said it is one of her top priorities to develop South East into one of the most reputable bands in St Vincent and also working on developing her craft.

“It’s a great feeling when you are able to communicate something to these young people. It was most heart-warming when they had the hearts of steel show and I was able to lead and hear my own work and hearing my group deliver.

“It’s really rewarding when you know you can engage these young people meaningfully, keeping them away the possibilities of being led into crime and violence…”

Nanton stated that it is important for young people to get involved in not only music, but extracurricular activities that will help them develop into better individuals.

“It doesn’t take away from you. It adds to who you are. Become involved in something,” Nanton urged.