Senators, Musicians Team Up for 'A Grand Cultural Musical Affair'

A series of musical events slated for January will recognize Virgin Islands musicians and raise funds for musical education in the territory, Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Clifford Graham announced Friday.

“A Grand Cultural Musical Affair” will include educational workshops and will culminate in a jazz concert featuring renowned drummer and V.I. native Dion Parsons and the 21st Century Band.

The announcement came shortly after Malone and Graham passed a resolution during the Nov. 19 session session that honored Parsons and his band.

According to Malone, the event will recognize the achievements of Virgin Islanders who have made a name for themselves in the music industry.

“Too often, we don’t recognize the work of world-class musicians who hail right here from the Virgin Islands,” the Senate president said.

Popular reggae musicians, said Malone, are not only coming out of Jamaica, but are also nurtured in the Virgin Islands. Artists such as Pressure Buss Pipe, the Midnite band out of St. Croix, and Niyorah are recognized by reggae-lovers, he said. Musician Cruz Rock is also a favorite in Germany.

Another aim of the event is to raise funds for buying instruments and equipment that can be used to teach music in the territory’s public schools.

“Ultimately, this is all about the students and giving them the best opportunity possible,” said Malone, adding that students do not need to have a musical career in mind to benefit from learning how to play a musical instrument.

Studies show, he said, that students participating in musical extracurricular activities tend to have better grades and critical thinking skills, and are less likely to develop anti-social behavior or engage in drugs.

Graham said that Parson’s “Mentoring Through The Arts” program is helping make music a part of the students’ school life. The program’s workshops, master classes, and opportunities to become part of the V.I. Youth Ensemble, a select group of talented students in the territory, provides an experience that goes beyond the school bands and choirs to which students normally have access.

“It’s one thing to perform in school band … but it’s another thing to really take it to the next level and show you how to become a real, professional performing artist,” said Graham. “This is something that Dion Parson does every opportunity that he has.”

However, after speaking with Parson, Graham realized that the impact of the initiative is somewhat hampered by a lack of equipment in schools.

“Looking at where we are with respect to the public school system, we have deficiencies in the respect that a lot of the schools really don’t have the instruments that they need to help the students take it to the next level,” explained Graham.

Graham emphasized that out of the seven members of the 21st Century Band, five are from the Virgin Islands, all of whom went through the public school system. Virgin Islands students can also follow in their footsteps with adequate and properly equipped musical education, according to Graham.

Parson is fully on board with the senators’ initiative.

“We’re having a lot fun sharing this music, educating the kids, sustaining and promoting the culture of the Virgin Islands,” said Parson. “The talent in the Virgin Islands is so remarkable. It is possible we will have more master musicians coming from this territory.”

The fundraising in “A Grand Cultural Musical Affair” occurs mainly through two events in the series: the Awards Dinner Banquet and the Reichhold jazz concert. The amount the events manage to raise will be matched by jazz great Wynton Marsalis, according to Malone.

The “Grand Cultural Musical Affair” events will be:
• St. Croix Educational Workshop, Wednesday, Jan. 22
• St. Thomas Educational Workshop, Thursday, Jan. 23
• Sponsors’ VIP Welcome Reception, Friday, Jan. 24, Emerald Beach Resort, 5:30-8 p.m.
• Awards Dinner Banquet, Saturday, Jan. 23, Sugar Bay Resort, 6:30 p.m.
• Jazz Concert, Sunday, Jan. 26, Reichhold Center for the Arts

Further information about the event or becoming a sponsor can be obtained by calling Rochelle Corneiro at 1-340-693-3599 or Delvin Duggins at 1-340-693-3615.

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