Parkinson students strike up the band
It was not their first time at the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), but the Parkinson Memorial School Pop Band can consider their appearance before the judges last Saturday as one of their better times.
The staid and incubatory environment of the Major Noott Hall was transformed into another of natural talent and spontaneous celebration after the five-piece band hailing from The Pine, St Michael, showed that – yes something good “can come out of Nazareth” and make a postive difference in the lives of many a person.
And these included the judges who seemed to enjoy every moment of the two-song set that included Please Don’t Stop The Music by Rihanna and Fussing And Fighting co-written by band member Amber Barrow and entertainer John King.
The sustained buzz after the band’s appearance and the joy etched on the faces of its members signalled that everyone had had a good time.
And having a good time and doing it “right” was what the music teachers who accompanied the band to the semis wanted to accomplish.
“The five-member team, who are augmented, depending on what programmes they have to take on, were in existence since 2009,” says teacher Randy Eastmond, who was with his colleague Farakhan Stephens after the performance.
Eastmond’s involvement with the school’s music programme came in 2008, when well known gospel singer and calypsonian Sheldon Hope was the music teacher. He is currently on study leave.
“We said we would work on developing the music programme; so I searched out the talent in the first forms at that time.”
It was then that drummer Matthew Trotman, front singer Amber Barrow and now bassist Sharmar Coombs, who was in third form, were discovered. Coombs could not play an instrument at that time and was taught the guitar by Eastmond. Trotman knew how to play the drums and Barrow “a bit” of the keyboard.
“We did NIFCA 2010. At that time we had a saxophonist called Mylon Clarke, who has won two bronze medals at NIFCA. The band also won two bronze medals at NIFCA 2010.”
When Eastmond left for study leave last year, Stephens took over the band. He introduced a sampler machine to improve on the resourcefulness of the students and kept the unit together.
“We are looking to do a school tour at the end of this term . . . . Trying to raise some funds for the music department because we need some assistance with equipment,” said Stephens.
He also lauded the work ethic of the band members.
“I am very impressed with the way the guys have been working, not only tonight [Saturday], but from the time I met them. I remember from the very first time I came, I asked them to play something that they know and the talent and the sound that I got you could have heard that they were really working at their craft,” said Stephens.
“My plan and Eastmond’s is to get them prepared for the world after school. We want that when these guys leave they can go anywhere and fit into any [environment] musically.
“So having a knowledge of computer music, I decided to introduce the computer to run samples and it would also augment the sound of the band.”
He said introducing the technology had given the students confidence and strength to work as a team.
“That has proven to be a tremendous help, they listen to one another and are able to vibe, to jam . . . . When Eastmond came back it was all smiles because you know he was there first and it was a good feeling.”
Eastmond said the journey to NIFCA was a productive one overall, including last weekend’s.
“I think the audience received the band well and the message that was being sent by the band. There is room for improvement.
“I am happy [however] with how the band performed and I think you should have fun if you are doing music, as long as it is done right. “With that in mind, they also brought an original taste [to the set]. Stephens would have started the arrangement and I would done my piece for Please Don’t Stop The music.”
Stephens said it was a Parkinson exclusive.
Eastmond also said that arrangement to Fussing And Fighting, which is being played on the air, was tweaked for last Saturday’s NIFCA outing. He said that school pride was paramount and he was instilling in band members that they were role models.
“I had a very long talk with them and I told them that they were role models and they said. ‘That is true, sir. Everyone in the school knows [our] names. Why is that?’
“I said, ‘Because the children look up to you. They see you performing and your picture is going to be in the paper. They want to know [you]. They are going to watch everything you do so you need to give off this positive energy that you know what you are about’.”