V.I. Music Series Celebration at JESS Honors SJSA and Inner Visions

V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute board member Avelino Samuel, Center, hands Inner Visions member Alvin “Jupiter” Pickering, left, an award.

Virgin Islands music and culture took center stage at the Julius E. Sprauve School on Wednesday afternoon, March 30, during the Fifth Annual March Music Series celebration.

Hosted by the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute and the Department of Education’s Cultural Education Division, this year’s theme was “Sounds of Music” and events were hosted all month at schools across the territory.

At JESS last week, VI Cultural Institute executive director Myron Jackson honored two long-time Love City musical institutions, iconic reggae band Inner Visions and the territory’s first arts school, St. John School of the Arts.

Before the honors were bestowed, however, JESS students showed off their varied and growing musical talents.

Shakima Jones led the school’s secondary choir, consisting of Shemaera Fahie, Elisha Howe and Zaria Longueville, in “The Star Spangled Banner” and “V.I. March,” before belting out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” herself. Then the JESS elementary choir took the stage and impressed the crowd with its renditions of “Siyahamba” and “Tomorrow.”

SJSA executive director Jan Kinder, center, accepts and award from board member Louis Francis.

The school’s horn masters took the stage next. Ja’Halie Bruce on trumpet and Samuel Liburd Jr. on saxophone performed “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” with Bruce’s grandfather, Eddie Bruce, joining in on guitar. Poetry was also featured during the celebration as the top Poetry Out Loud finishers at the school recited their selections.

With the crowd warmed up, Jackson took the stage to honor two St. John institutions who have each been making beautiful music for more than 30 years.

“Music is love,” Jackson said. “Without music we don’t exist. Everything alive in this world makes music.”

“We might not understand exactly what they are saying, but it’s still music, from the wind, rain, thunder, the ocean, and even the roosters and hens in our yard, they all make music,” he said.

The VI Cultural Institute is dedicated to keeping the music alive and recognizing individuals who have made a contribution to local arts, explained Jackson.

“As part of our mission, we decided to recognize musicians and dancers who have made significant contributions in the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and global music,” Jackson said. “Today we honor two institutions who have been established for 30 years.”

The VI Cultural Heritage Institute honored SJSA founder Ruth “Sis” Frank in 2009, as a founder of the SJSA, and this year honored the school itself, explained Jackson.

“Sis passed away last year and we are so happy that we were able to honor here while she was alive,”  Jackson said.
Accepting the award on behalf of SJSA, the school’s executive director Jan Kinder expressed the on-going motivation which keeps the school afloat.

“St. John School of the Arts is a labor of love,” said Kinder. “We do this because we love the arts. SJSA acknowledges the importance of an arts education for our youth and is honored to be an integral part of this community.”

Kinder also dedicated the award to SJSA founder Frank and the school’s many students.

“I would like to dedicate this award to Sis Frank,” Kinder said. “I also dedicate this award to all the children who have walked through our doors and who have celebrated their joy for the arts.”

Inner Visions members Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering, Alvin “Jupiter” Pickering, Akiba “Mr. Snooze” Pickering and Aswad “Hollywood” Pickering keep the roots reggae torch — first lit by elder band members more than three decades ago — lit on St. John and around the world, explained Jackson.

“Inner Visions was founded over 30 year ago to promote roots reggae and since then the band has traveled extensively sharing that passion,” said Jackson.

Accepting the award on behalf of the band, Jupiter explained what keeps the musicians going after all these years.
“It’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about the love for the music. You have to love the music.”

JESS African drummers directed by Eddie Bruce wrapped up the afternoon’s program showing their unparalleled love for their craft.