March 10, 2015
String band music now in SMSS and NUSS

Two schools, the St Martin’s Secondary School (SMSS) and the North Union Secondary School (NUSS) have been charged with the preservation of string band music in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The move towards the preservation of what some have described as a dying art form (string band music) comes as the two schools launched string bands last Friday, March 6, at the St Martin’s School compound in Kingstown Park.{{more}}

The launch by both institutions was fuelled by the donation of stringed instruments by an overseas donor.

The instruments, valued at around US$20,000 and donated by a Canadian organization called Opportunities in Music, will be used to teach students the dying art of string band music. The instruments were sourced by Canadian/Vincentian Leo Lewis.

The donation is said to be the stepping stone needed by the music department of the Ministry of Education to help with the preservation of string band music here.

Speaking at the launch, senior education officer responsible for secondary schools Asfo Stephens thanked the Music Department of the Ministry for their effort in obtaining the instruments. He also thanked the donors for the gesture.

Also present at the function were education officer with responsibility for music Dexter Bacchus, music officer Dennis Jardine, principal of the St Martins Secondary School (SMSS) Wendell Edwards, Marla Nanton of the Ministry of Education’s Media Unit and North Union Secondary School music teacher Hank Williams.

Bacchus described the launch as “a historical time in educational development.”

He said that over the years, different music ensembles have evolved to meet the social needs, both in the rural and urban setting of post slavery SVG, while only a handful of string bands are still active.

Bacchus also noted that the Ministry’s Music Department is hoping that the launch of these bands will help to develop music and assist in continuing the string band tradition.

The donation included banjos, guitars and drums. Bacchus said that while they have started with two schools, he is hoping that a third school will soon be added to the programme.

He noted also that the objective of the string bands is twofold: to revive an important musical cultural art form and to develop skills that will give students additional career opportunities in the area of music.

Principal Edwards stressed that at the SMSS, they believe in a holistic approach to education, stating “as we believe each child can excel in their given field, so we believe in giving them every opportunity.”

He said that the string band sessions will give impetus to the school’s objectives, as it is well known that music training develops the brain and can help develop the “whole child.”

Edwards added also that research has shown that music makes children more successful in school and helps reduce violence and inappropriate behaviour.