On Sunday, April 24, Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) got a joyful awakening. The Vera Moody Concert Hall housed the latest edition of Jamaica’s Best School Band Competition. The hall filled quickly and remained that way even after the competition ended. The atmosphere was electric, and the audience showed up for a spectacular night of showing off musical skills.
The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, EMCVPA, and many other vital sponsors supported the event. The judges Abishai Hoilett of Bebble Rock Music, Gospel artist Sherieta Lewis, and music producer Steven Stewart made up the judging panel. The audience watched as judges bopped their heads, clapped, and enjoyed doing their job throughout the night. All the judges muttered was “Wow!” at one particular time. The best aspect of the entire night was the audience participation. As an illustration, no matter what band took the stage, the audience responded with cheering and all-around Jamaican accolades. It was pleasing to watch the excitement unfolding on stage and with the patrons.
Best School Band Stand Tall
Accordingly, each school came with their ‘A-Game’ and put on their best shows. The masterful competitors were Dinthill Technical High School in Linstead, St Catherine, Papine High school in St. Andrew, Belair High School in Manchester, Alpha Vocational Training Centre in Kingston, and Denbigh High School from Clarendon, and also St Catherine High School in St Catherine. Although the audience suffered from some technical sound engineering difficulties, the vibe brought by each band made up for it. MC Casey Donaldson kept us entertained during band changes. Surprisingly he showed off massive dance moves to prove why he is the vibes master.
It was evident that the competition was stiff throughout the rounds. Comparatively, the finals created an atmosphere that demanded as close to perfection as possible. The six bands knew the stakes and prepared. After each performance, the judges released guided but harsh realities. In some cases, expectations were not met, leading to disappointment, which was clear from the fair and accurate responses. The judges broke down minute performance elements and praised the performers in other cases.
A Break Down
Denbigh High School put on a fantastic show that impressed the judges. The lead vocalist’s confidence carried the discussion after the performance. The lead guitarist surprised us with her skill. Correspondingly, the saxophonist got into her groove and made her presence known.
For Belair High School, the spirit of the drum leader was infectious. Judge Steven Stewart was drawn in and called out by the drum to show how impactful he was. Mr Stewart made sure to point it out when he spoke after the performance.
The Alpha Vocational Training Centre, a.k.a. “Daah”, ‘took telling’ and came dressed to ‘puss back foot’. Judge Sherieta Lewis said, “You look fun”. Abishai Hoilett emphatically agreed, “We saw that you all had fun.” The judges were taken by just how much each member enjoyed themselves on stage. Steven Stewart explained that “fun is a part of entertaining”. All judges agreed by nodding as he stated that the drum solo was breathtaking.
St Catherine High School was ‘out and bad’ from start to finish. They came to take that trophy home and left no guessing or spelling about their intention. The band mixed genres in both melody and rhythm. They sometimes sang pop songs on reggae or jazz beats that brought the house to a roar. Juge Sherieta Lewis stated, “I just could not contain myself. St Catherine High, you are just about ready for the road.” Abishai Hoilett agreed and added, “I really feel that this is a show that people would pay money to see.” Steven Stewart took it further, broke down each performance segment, and singled out the trombonist by comparing him to Vin Gordon and Don Drummond. He said, “All of you are a show and believe this could start a band tour right now.”
Room For Improvement
Dinthill High School began the competition and had a fun performance. Unfortunately, they suffered from technical difficulties and maybe the first band jitters. Although their set was fun, you could see that they were not at their best. What they did have was the audience’s undying support. The shouts of “One Maroon” almost shattered the windows at times as the audience showed their love.
Papine High School also came up short with the judges. Some rehearsal mistakes led to an uncoordinated performance, but their message was clear; “Don’t you trouble Papine”!
It’s A Wrap
The night was electric and rewarding. The competition was an immense success in showcasing the future of Jamaican music. Thank you to MCGES, GraceKennedy, HomeTime, World A Reggae, EMCVPA, the Jamaica Music Society, Zoom Karting, JACAP, VRCA, and FLOW for supporting the dreams of our youth.
Please pay close attention to our slideshow below for more on the story of what took place.