The musical artistry of students aged nine to 18, from primary and secondary schools across the island, will be on display when the Schools??? Music Festival comes off on Sunday, March 15.

With the promise of developing musical talent of all forms, those patronising the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex can expect to be rewarded with a high level of singing from choirs, soloists and school bands.

Moreover, school bands, with their myriad pieces of equipment and individuals on instruments, who can only be deemed child prodigies, are all guaranteed to lend to ???an evening of high quality performances at a modest cost???.

At least, that???s what Coordinator of the festival and Acting Senior Education Officer (Curriculum) in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Fernando Carter, is hoping for.

Lauding the Ministry initiative that he considers a worthy successor to the former Schools??? Choir Competition, last staged in 2013, Mr. Carter admitted to being pleased and moved by what has resulted from the four preliminaries, held January 29 to February 5.

According to him, out of keen rivalry came ???an extremely high standard of rendition and musicality??? that belied the ages of the participants and ???the length of time for preparation???.

???Some soloists are ready to take on the world and have what it takes to go professional. At both levels (primary and secondary), we glimpsed this exceptional ability to move the audiences. With the purpose of this festival being to showcase musical talent at its best, we have really seen this in a variety of categories.

???The preliminaries would have brought to the fore children with the innate ability to play instruments, like drums, saxophones and violins. Some young instrumentalists simply wooed the judges on the keyboard and saxophone, and there was this boy wonder that patrons must see, on the drums ??? truly phenomenal!??? Mr. Carter exclaimed.

He also stressed that like its predecessor, the Schools??? Music Festival is a biennial event but with an emphasis on a wide range of musical talents.??Praise was also heaped on schools with steel orchestras and bands, with the education official noting that the amiable and respectful manner in which participants behaved also showed a level of maturity beyond their age.

Mr. Carter recounted an instance where one school gave another ???a standing ovation for their impressive rendition of a song???, and others where all schools clapped and showed appreciation for even those who faltered and eventually exited the competition.

This is not to say that challenges did not exist along the way. For the man who is regarded as the brainchild behind the festival, Mr. Carter pointed out that issues of all kinds were anticipated and planned for.

Following the preliminaries, professional musicians and image creators were hired to work with finalists to fine-tune and develop the budding musicians. This was achieved via two developmental workshops on February 26 and March 3.

These sessions saw the Ministry working in collaboration with Partners That Care International, a charitable organisation, and utilising the skills of singing sensation, Carolyn Leacock; saxophonist Arturo Tappin; as well as consultants who led the children in team building and self-development exercises.

Adding that this significantly heightened students??? awareness of their errors and flaws, the Coordinator of the inaugural event said the developmental sessions further enhanced the camaraderie that existed from the start.

???They would have undergone training in breathing techniques, proper pronunciation and enunciation; learnt how to select the appropriate song for their voice; how to use the microphone correctly; how to harmonise and create synergy with their backing band; relate to their music and make that unavoidable contact with their audience.

“They also learnt about wearing suitable clothing for the stage and speaking confidently in public,??? Mr. Carter remarked, adding that the training had a dual purpose – to ensure participants could hone the technical skills and improve their performances and ultimately assure a quality programme come March 15.

Twenty-seven schools will take to the stage on Finals??? night. At the secondary level, the schools are: Frederick Smith, Grantley Adams Memorial, Combermere School, Christ Church Foundation, Harrison College, The Lodge School, Parkinson Memorial, Lester Vaughan, Deighton Griffith, Codrington, The St. Michael School, The Alleyne School and Ellerslie Secondary.

The 14 primary schools represented are: Hillaby/Turner???s Hall, Charles F. Broome, Christ Church Girls???, Providence, Hindsbury, Mount Tabor, Hilltop Primary, St. Martin???s/Mangrove, St. Matthew???s Primary, Cuthbert Moore, Blackman and Gollop, Belmont Primary, Wesley Hall Junior and St. Giles Primary.

Asked about the expected response to overwhelming promotion by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, a key sponsor, as well as other media houses, Mr. Carter said the success could only be determined by the support from parents, teachers and students who attend.

Admitting to being both upbeat and hopeful, he stressed: ???I???m satisfied. I???m not worried. We are hearing that even schools which didn???t make it all the way through will still come out. We must remember that students have brothers, sisters, cousins and even parents, who are teachers, ancillary staff and even principals.???

The Schools??? Music Festival starts at 3:00 p.m. Box offices are located at C S Pharmacy (Bridgetown) and A & B Music Supplies Ltd. (Wildey and Sheraton). Tickets are also available from participating schools.

Parents or guardians seeking further information may contact Mr. Carter at 430-2829; email him at; or call Orlinder Bowen-Clarke at 430-2828.

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