Letter: Supporting our youths’ musical development

On Saturday, Oct. 16, the Romanian Pianist Matei Varga performed a recital at the Westin Ballroom as part of the 2017 Cayman Arts Festival Concert Series. Those who attended the recital were also treated to a stunning performance of Beethoven, Grieg and Delius by 14-year-old John Gray student Cameron Gilson. Cameron’s performance was both sophisticated and charming and quite remarkable considering that until recently he did not have a piano to practice on at home or had had any private tuition.

For the last four years Cayman Arts Festival have worked with the government schools to identify and support gifted and talented students. Cayman Arts then puts everything possible in place to help the identified students succeed.

As a result of this programme Cameron now has a piano at home on loan from Cayman Arts Festival, this thanks to an extremely generous donation by local Attorney Sarah Dobbyn, who gave her piano to CAF. Cameron now receives piano lessons once a week from Nicole Bodden, group trumpet tuition from Keith Millar (on a trumpet purchased by CAF) and is part of a jazz ensemble under the direction of young Caymanian virtuoso jazz pianist Beneil Miller. Cayman Arts Festival funds all of this and as a result Cameron has a bright musical future ahead of him.

Cameron is absolutely not alone in receiving an enhanced music education through CAF. We have currently over 100 string students aged 7-13 who work daily in classes after school at John Gray High School, Monday through Saturday. Their school music teachers have identified all these students as having musical potential. All these string players use superior quality CAF-owned instruments and attend group classes, which include beginner, intermediate, advanced, ensemble, quartet and orchestra. There is no charge to any of the students, either for the use of the instrument or for lessons. The success of the students and their enthusiasm is remarkable.

Cayman Arts Festival is running the Gifted and Talented Instrumental Programme through the help and sponsorship of the community. A visionary grant from Royal Bank of Canada has allowed the programme to flourish. In addition, Adam Johnson of Johnson Strings has not only donated instruments but also last year sent a luthier from Boston to repair and maintain them.

Patrons of the Arts, for example Peter and Julia Kandiah, have donated funds to further purchase instruments. Greenlight Re sponsors our string quartet and generously covers Trinity exam fees for members of the quartet who would otherwise not be able to enter exams. Teachers like Angharad Parkes (cello) give their time with no charge. CAF organize workshops for our students to work with visiting musicians and annually send our best students to the internationally respected summer music camp in Luzerne, New York state. They also run and provide financial support for the Cayman Youth Choir. Glen Inanga, Marius Gaina and the Cayman Arts Festival committee members work tirelessly to support and develop their commitment to music education.

When I was a child, I was picked out as musically gifted at my primary school in the U.K. and given access to lessons, firstly at school, then at the “County Music School.” I was the child who was given opportunities to play in national orchestras and ensembles supported all the way by the generosity of people who recognised that we need to support and nurture talent. I know from my own experience how a programme such as that which Cayman Arts Festival is running can offer opportunities which can change a child’s life.

On behalf of our amazing, gifted, talented, and inspiring students who are part of the CAF instrumental programme I would like to convey my sincere thanks to all who have contributed in any way. I would encourage anyone who is interested in giving to this programme or becoming part of it to contact Marius Gaina ([email protected]) or any member of the Cayman Arts Festival committee. Right now we have a waiting list for places in the cello programme – we are able to provide the lessons but are in need of instruments for the students to use. Your support will make this a reality.

Fran McConvey
Head of Music, John Gray High School

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