In the last year, I’ve attended a lot of meetings, seminars, focus groups and discussion panels aimed at increasing the access to opportunities in educational music to young people in general and AfroPeans in particular.Over Christmas, two wise ladies and one wise man reminded me that sometimes the most effective approach to making things happen to stop talking, roll your sleeves up and get on with the work.
I’m referring to Sheron Wray ( pictured above with rolled up sleeves) , who ran the JazzAlive Project www.jazzalive.co.uk alongside radio presenter and jazz enthusiast Clive Powell (pictured below, front centre) who jetted in from Dubai in his spare time to direct the London based project , and ensure that the young people got to meet, greet and work with the likes of Julian Joseph ( also pictured) Soweto Kinch and Courtney Pine.
And last, but not least Pamela Bell ( pictured below top left ) , of Ebony Strings fame, who presented the Kuumba strings in their first ever Christmas concert.
Together, Bell, Wray and Powell successfully mobilised young people, parents and educators to get together and deliver workshops and performances in music from all both ends of the AfroPean spectrum.
I’m very used to the sight of my sister, viola player Natalie Taylor ( above) being the sole AfroPean representative in the BBC Symphony orchestra. So you can imagine my surprise when, at the invitation of Pamela Bell, I attended an concert festooned with young AfroPean strings, from age 5 to 35, from grades 1 to 8. The Kuumba strings were having their inaugural winter concert, Supported by Omar Puente, and a handful of dedicated string tutors from the UK and the Carribean.
I know how much easier – and fun- music became for me once I saw someone that looked like me performing the music I wanted to play the way I wanted to play it. And this is what excites me about the Jazz Alive Project and the Kuumba Strings project. I think I first saw Courtney Pine and Cameron Pierre perform when I was in my early twenties; I first met Omar Puente a little over six years ago. The prospect of young musicians being regularly exposed to artists of this calibre from the age of 10, or younger, bodes well for the rate at which they can develop their skills, and, quite frankly, surpass any levels that they might mistakenly think that age is a prelude to.
And so I’m very much looking forward to 2009 and working with these two groups in particular. For those looking for the something secure to invest in during these uncertain times, I take the opportunity to remind you of the old stock market adage: buy volume, not price. There are hundreds of young children- of all extractions- who will yield quite remarkable returns when the smallest amounts of energy are invested in them.