Teacher cites silky voice, stage charisma as factors in jazz festival competition
Rico Orrett-Ebanks, 18, took part in a jazz festival in Canada earlier this month, winning the titles of “Top Male Vocalist” and “Top Overall Vocalist”. His prize was a scholarship to Berkeley University School of Music in Boston.
Set to graduate in June from the Kelowna Secondary School in British Columbia, Mr. Orrett-Ebanks looks forward to spending his summer break in Cayman and performing on-island before he resumes his studies this fall.
Rico and his school choir sang in the BC Interior Jazz Festival during the weekend of 12 to 14 April. His music teacher, Sheila French, reported that up to 20 choirs participated and most of them had eight to 10 male singers or more.
Festival rules specified categories of songs that could be chosen – pop material was to be avoided.
Ms French said Rico’s solo selections were “Come Fly with Me”, “My Funny Valentine” and “Nature Boy”.
With the school groups, he sang such standards as “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “Summer Samba”, “Didn’t We”, “Night and Day”, “Vincent”, “I’m Beginning to see the Light”, and “The More I See You”. Ms French noted that some of the choral pieces had several solos in them.
“Rico has a special voice that melts your heart,” Ms French said. “It is beautiful, rich and silky. He has a certain charisma on stage not many have. He has the ability to go far with this special gift if he chooses to. He will be missed a great deal next year. It has been a blessing having him.”
Rico’s biggest Cayman audience was most likely at the still-talked-about 2009 Jazz Fest, when he was one of the opening acts sharing stages with international stars, including Peabo Bryson, Oleta Adams and Alicia Keys.
Rico is the son of Rollin Ebanks Jr. and Nina Orrett-Ebanks, whose recording of Cayman’s National Song is probably the most frequently heard version. His musical family includes grandmother Daphne Orrett of Aunt Sookie fame and great-great grandmother, Hettie Lawson-Ebanks, who, Miss Daphne explains, was known as “West Bay’s Singing Nightingale”.
He attended Wesleyan Christian Academy, where he was a member of the school choir and concert band. His family reports that Rico exhibited a keen interest in singing and composing music, so much so that Nina began tape recording him when he was 2.
His family is also proud of the awards he has won in music competitions in both the US and Canada: the last count was in excess of 30.
Rico’s most recent prize may be the best to date because it could lead to an exciting career and the opportunity to make his family and Cayman even prouder of him than they already are.
The latest news is that Rico has been invited to take part in a national competition in Toronto in May, but he needs to raise $1,000 in order to go.