Music teacher wants more participation in Music Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Retired music teacher Lorraine Granderson was also musical director of the Lydians from 2017 to 2019. – Taken from The Lydians website

A top music teacher wants the TT Music Festival boosted by even more participation by pupils, supporters and the private sector. Lorraine Granderson, retired music teacher at Bishop Anstey High School, who still trains pupils and helps run the festival, told this to Newsday at Tuesday’s session at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.

She began by reflecting happily on the earlier performance of the choir of Moulton Hall Methodist (Primary) School, which she had coached and had just been adjudged the country’s second-best primary school choir after the larger 30-strong Maria Regina Grade School.

“I was happy for the most part that the children did what they had practised. They worked very hard and I was really generally very pleased with them.

“They didn’t always look at me on stage – it’s their first time – and that discipline has not yet been ingrained in them, but on the whole, I was really pleased with their performance.”

Two of her pupils earlier on Tuesday had succeeded in getting into the next round of the girls 11-12 solo vocals.

Newsday asked how the pupils benefited by participating in the Music Festival.

Granderson said, “Music is absolutely important.”

She lamented that some schools do not allow pupils to participate due to fears over their time commitments for preparing for the SEA exam.

“As a country, we really need to understand where our priorities are. I think, generally, we do not understand the importance of the creative arts like music and singing.”

She said all her life she had dealt with children and singing, including teaching at Bishops and taking children all over the world.

“Not that they necessarily become world famous or anything, but it does something to the human psyche. Singing, singing together, community singing.

“Presenting yourself to an audience, you develop that sense of confidence, that sense of ‘I am’, ‘I can’. Those things are so important.”

Deneisha Dempster and Cydnee Cooper sang their way to first place at the TT Music Festival, in the Girls Vocal Duet 13-15 years category on Wednesday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Newsday suggested that over the years, more people should have attended the festival.

Granderson hoped that public awareness of the festival could be ramped up towards boosting attendance.

“We have to find ways to advertise, although it costs money.

“Traditionally, the festival never has enough money because you have to pay adjudicators, you have to pay Queen’s Hall, so it is a lot of expense.

“We really need to get corporate TT more involved.”

Granderson also hoped more schools could be encouraged to participate, although unsure how that might happen.

“There was a time in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and up to the 1980s when, for example, at primary school you would find 50 or 60 choirs.”

She contrasted that with just four choirs competing on Tuesday, the others being Dunross Preparatory School and St David’s RC Primary.

“I know covid19 is partially responsible, people are now getting back in gear, and also generally it is a little more difficult to get children involved and motivated, so that is a challenge. I have heard teachers say so.”

Yet, she also said some schools have bucked this trend.

“I am helping out with a mixed choir from QRC and Providence and it is amazing that there are so many boys who come to rehearsal, about 20 boys who are coming to rehearse. So it is possible.

“You really have to motivate young people and encourage them, provide the opportunities for them.”

Granderson said the festival was an excellent opportunity.

“They learn so much. One thing they understand is that we can’t all win and go into the final, but you do the work and work very hard.

“And the victory is in executing the work that you have done. Whether it gets you into the final, whether it gets you into winning, it does not matter.

“You have done the work, and you have presented the work, and you have done it to the best of your ability. That is what we have to try to get our children to do – to always try their best. It’s a challenge. It is a work in progress.”

Granderson was glad for news of the good works of Music Festival pupils compared to the public daily diet of not-so-good news.

“You can’t give up. They are children, so you can’t give up. They are worth it. They are our children. If we give up on them, then what?

“We all complain about violence and young people but many of us have given up. It is harder, I know it is hard, but we can’t give up especially when they are little ages.”

She recalled a child she teaches.

“I have a little boy in my choir. Lord have mercy, he can’t keep still.

“Then, before he had to go on stage to sing, ‘Miss I am nervous.’

“I said,’ You are nervous?’ The whole time you are giving me so much trouble, but you are nervous?'” she related, laughingly.

“But they are really sweet. They are worth it.”

She recalled Newsday once asking her in 2007 how she had got her Bishops girls to sing so well together.

“I remember saying they just love singing.

“I had taken them on a trip abroad and it brought them so close that they became like one family. So they would just sing.

“So on-stage, it was just like you are singing and having a ball.”

Reflecting, Granderson said, “We need to give more children these opportunities.”

The Music Festival continues on Monday at 9 am, featuring junior choirs, junior girls vocal duets, and junior vocal solos. The afternoon session at 1.30 pm features junior piano solos and duets. The night session at 7 pm features steelpan ensembles, folk choirs, calypso chorales and parang groups, among other performances.