JANUARY 21, 2011

Students' incursion experiences put into 'Tell Me Why'

Jamaica: The Gleaner

by Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Persons will get to see a rare outpouring of emotion from inner-city youth as the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica Choir performs Tell Me Why at the Oasis Regional Concert, slated for the Courtleigh Auditorium tomorrow

Written by one of the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica's (NYOJ) instructors, Hugh Douse, Tell Me Why shows what members of the choir experienced during and after the military incursion into Tivoli Gardens last year.

When The Gleaner visited a rehearsal at the St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) on Wednesday, the choir, whose core membership is about 60 students, had been divided into groups and were being coached by local and overseas instructors.

Established in January last year, the NYOJ is a Organisation of American States initiative which takes the radical approach of redirecting the spare time and energy of the youth from often violent activities into classical music. The classes are based at STATHS, from which some of the members are recruited, in addition to Tivoli High, Denham Town High and Primary schools, St Alban Primary, Greenwich Primary and St Andrew Primary.


According to NYOJ coordinator Michelle Braham, the initiative has had its challenges, but has also experienced many fulfilling results. She explained: "The hardest part is getting the kids to stay and getting them to come every day. We don't have a big budget working with, but we try." The children are instructed by choir officials who visit from overseas and are also guided by a number of teachers and students from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

"The results so far have been pretty good, actually. It's strange to see how a year later some of our children have changed and are now looking out for the newer kids. It's been a work in progress," Braham reflected.

According to Braham the programme has real potential to change the lives of the students, showing them that opportunities exist for them and that music is an avenue to attain new goals. She explained: "They have learnt to set goals for themselves. It builds self-esteem, shows them to be compassionate and considerate to others. While music might not be their life or future, it can take them places. They can get music scholarships and go on to study something else."

Right now, however, the children are focused on the concert, which will see choirs and instructors from similar programs in Haiti, St Lucia and various South American countries participating. Braham said: "The kids will be performing Tell Me Why, which is a song Hugh Douse wrote after what happened in May. The kids shared their experiences. We had 75 kids in January and after May we had 25 students coming in. Parents were scared about sending their children out. So we asked them what had happened to them. Some of them lost people close to them and the song came from their experiences."

Students incursion

Hugh Douse (left) is in full teaching mode as he instructs the children at the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica choir practice at St Andrew Technical High School on Wednesday. - Ian Allen/Photographer

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Haiti Relief Efforts:
Rebuilding Sainte Trinité

The Youth Orchestra Program in Haiti experienced a major setback when the Program’s host school, the Ecole de Musique Sainte Trinité, was destroyed during the 2010 earthquake. 

Since the OASIS program started, Sainte Trinité served as a venue for the disadvantaged youths of Bel-Air. If we put our efforts together we can bring back the program and help rebuild the school.

› Click here to see what we are doing and to get involved.