From student to mentor, several members of the Virgin Islands Jazz Collective returned to St. Croix Educational Complex last week, for a music workshop with band students, visiting for the USVI Music Festival held on Saturday, March 25 in Frederiksted. Steelpan artist, Eljhaie Brathwaite, shared how he once was under the mentorship of the band director at Complex, Kev’re Hendricks, during the UVI summer band camp held in St. Thomas.
As part of the workshop, VI Jazz Collective band members, Jairay Petty and Howard Peters, worked with the percussion students outside while Brathwaite joined them in speaking with the wind instruments on how they were introduced to music.
“This is a great opportunity to give back as I remember being in similar shoes as a young student with interest in pursuing music while having the opportunity to perform in St. Croix after a long hiatus with the VI Jazz Collective,” noted Brathwaite. “This is the VI Jazz Collective’s first time returning to the stage in a while and I’m excited for this opportunity here in St. Croix at the USVI Music Festival.”
The Virgin Islands Jazz Collective, which consists of six members, including Keshawn Hardy, Uriel Rogers, and Joshua Farrell and guest Ron Blake, originally from the Virgin Islands but now residing in New York, performed at the USVI Music Festival this weekend. Blake is a saxophonist, composer, and music educator, amongst many other titles and accolades, who first began learning music at eight years old.
Blake, alongside Dion Parson, educator, composer, and GRAMMY-award-winning drummer and President of the United Jazz Fund born and raised in St. Thomas, participated in the music summer program within the Caribbean Music Institute, where several members, including Brathwaite, attended while still in high school in St. Thomas. Seeing the growth and benefit of programs like the summer music program, many of the band members return to schools for workshops as ways to inspire students to pursue their dreams and to develop their craft.
The United Jazz Foundation (UJF) is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to identify, educate, and mentor students who aspire to begin a career in music. With emphasis on Jazz as a tool to create “skillful and responsible human beings” since COVID, the Caribbean Music Institute also introduced online courses to continue the music heritage of the Virgin Islands.
The inter-island transfer of knowledge and passion for music is a great benefit to the Virgin Islands and to the future of the arts as a means of preserving the culture of music and building the skills of talented youth right here in the territory.