The initial Premier’s Award for the Arts took place at the Saturday finale of Jazz Fest 2009.
It was set up to honour unique and noteworthy individuals in the entertainment industry and recognises the achievements and international fame of talented people working in various disciplines.
Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott, in a speech at the festival, said that the inaugural awards will be held annually.
‘The Premier’s Award is intended to celebrate the outstanding achievement of individuals who have shown great talent, enthusiasm and dedication in the areas of culture, music, literature, theatre, visual and performing arts, education or sports.
‘Over time, the goal of this award will be to highlight creativity and foster the development of talent, especially among the youth, within the Cayman Islands community.’
Specifically, the awards acknowledge a series of factors that individually or collectively mark an individual as deserving of recognition.
These include outstanding achievement and those who demonstrate skill and talent at the highest level, display exemplary conduct and participation in the field for which they are being recognised, show leadership, sportsmanship and willingness to work with others, consistently do their best whilst setting an example to others, demonstrate a high level of motivation, initiative, integrity, intellectual depth and exceptional judgement and show exemplary citizenship and participation in community service or charitable activities.
Those honoured in 2009 were all from the music category. Mr. Scott commented that the skill and talent of the individuals had earned respect and admiration. He said the musical careers of the honourees had seen them entertain and enrich the lives of many people and made them well-known and well-loved by the Caymanian community.
Premier McKeeva Bush joined Mr. Scott onstage to present the awards to a series of individuals that were rapturously received by the huge crowd.
The first recipient was Rudy Miles who has performed with 150 choirs in Cayman, the Caribbean and United States. Mr. Miles was president of Cayman National Choir from 1989-1992 and his famous version of the National Song is well-known, explained Mr. Scott.
‘Undoubtedly a gifted vocalist, Rudy’s musical philosophy is that, ‘God-given talent [is] not to be used for self-gratification but to bring glory to God, honour to country and joy to fellow man.’ Clearly, these are words he lives by.’
Jah Mitch was next; his 40-year-career as a songwriter, singer and reggae performer setting him up to become a stylist of some jazz note. There was a gong for Junior Jennings, the Jamaican whose career as a performer predated his opening the influential Jennings Music School and a subsequent career teaching the new generation.
Edmund ‘Eddie’ Scott, of Cayman Brac, recorded the first-ever album in the Cayman Islands with the Brac Beach Boys in the 1960s. A close mentor of the Caymanian musicians, he was instrumental in kick-starting the recording industry here. In October he was awarded the Cayman National Cultural Foundation Heritage Cross for his lifelong achievements.
‘His style of music directly influenced the sound of bands like the Tornadoes, who even today still have the most original and unique sound of any local band. Throughout his life, Eddie has not only been a gifted music teacher, but taught kids how to build their own musical instruments and make their own toys out of the materials available locally,’ said Mr. Scott.
Andy Martin, The Cayman Cowboy, was honoured for his achievements touring in the US, often with The Barefoot Band, and his charity concerts. His 35 years in the business have led to several awards including Queens Badge of Honour, The Cultural Foundation Award and the CMEA Musical Contribution award.
Hinton Conolly of Cayman Brac was born in 1937 and since then has participated in the Islands’ musical culture heavily including writing the popular song ‘A Quick Drink at the Pool Bar’. His love for music and guitar remains undimmed and he received an award for his contributions.
Mr. Scott described Edward Solomon as ‘a musical icon’ and ‘a true music aficionado’. His adventures over the years both in the United States and Europe were honoured, as was his ‘versatility in music and sharp sense of fashion’.
Nina Orrett-Ebanks came to the stage to huge applause; Cayman’s Songbird having begun her long career at the age of 2. Since then she has performed alongside everyone from Kirk Franklyn and Shirley Caesar to Turbulence and Maxi Priest and underwent successful brain surgery. Her musical genes are intact – young Rico Orrett-Ebanks wowed the crowds with a main stage performance on Friday. Nina was handed a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Premier.
Wellesley Howell had begun as a shoemaker but soon picked up a sax and started making sounds rather than shoes. Fifty years after arriving on Cayman, the self-taught musician had teamed up with Junior Jennings and helped with the development of such luminaries as Lambert (Lammie) Seymour, Charles Gregory, Coolie the Cool, Burman Scott, Glenroy Fuad, Darrel Dacres and Linguard Ebanks. His award was handed over to delighted roars from the Jazz Fest punters.
Finally, ‘Aunt’ Julia Hydes was given an award. Miss Julia celebrated her 100 birthday this year performing her favourite songs with Swanky Kitchen Band. The spry and still-sharp Miss Julia still performs for family gatherings and at the Pines Retirement Home. Miss Hydes’ 28 Caymanian folk song competitions each have an interesting back story and she performed live regularly until the age of 96.
As he called her to the stage, Mr. Scott described Miss Hydes as ‘our own beloved cultural icon, Aunt Julia Hydes’ and the applause and approval swept through the Camana Bay crowd.
Later, in a backstage ceremony, Saturday headliner Alicia Keys was presented with the first Cayman Islands Premier’s Award for the Arts to recognise her outstanding contribution to the music and entertainment industry and also her heavy charity involvement with the Keep A Child Alive foundation, which provides medicine for children and their families with HIV/AIDS across Africa. It is credited with saving an estimated 45,000 lives to date.
There are a number of HIV/AIDS awareness programmes and services in Cayman Islands including Cayman Islands Red Cross and the Cayman AIDS Foundation.