The following is a quote from my very first blog:
“I’m writing this on the morning of my 5th day here. I am already in love with the place. In fact, I was in love with it as I got off the plane and I can predict that someone is going to have to drag me off this island in July.”
My prediction was wrong. In fact, nobody dragged me off the island at the end of the year, nor did I leave at all. The Montserrat Foundation UK and Guildhall, prompted by my proposal and the general consensus of the local people, decided I was worthy of another year on Montserrat. Hooray! With only three and a half months to go before the end of the academic year it is time to reflect on what has happened over the course of the last 6 months. In two words: A LOT!
To say that I haven’t been good at blogging regularly would be an understatement. A friend commented on one of my first entries that it would be challenge to update the blog regularly. At the time I brushed off the comment. However he was clearly right! One thing I have updated regularly however throughout the course of this year is a Facebook page I made for the project. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Montserrat-Foundation-UK-Music-Programme/373630002748443
Before I get into what I’ve been doing on this beautiful island during this academic year, a little bit about the decision to stay for an extra year.
About this time last year I started to think about the progress I had managed to make during my first 6 months in Montserrat. I had built strong relationships with people here from all different walks of life and these people were starting to have confidence in me. I was no longer the blonde stranger coming into their community teaching music in the schools. The children started to trust me and I could feel a buzz around the community with regards to music, particularly after the success of Under The Mango Tree. I knew that we were on the verge of something really great. I thought that if all this could be achieved in the first 6 months, just imagine how much could happen over the next 6 months. Oh, but I only had 3 months left. I realised that with time passing so quickly I was going to blink and the summer term would be over – bye bye Montserrat. This didn’t fit with the strong instinct I felt saying it wasn’t time to leave yet.
I spoke to various members of the community who agreed with me in that it would be better for Montserrat and its youth to have some continuity. I sent my thoughts and reasons behind them to the Montserrat Foundation UK and awaited their response. I wasn’t too confident as I knew the project was intended for Guildhall graduates to come out for a year at a time, benefitting both Montserrat and the successful candidates who would have a fantastic experience in both giving something to the community here and learning a lot themselves.
Eventually, after much consideration and various meetings between the Chairman of the Montserrat Foundation UK and appropriate officials here in Montserrat, it was decided that I would stay for another year.
The first sign that we had done the right thing came very soon after the decision was made. Loni Howe, who works for the Department of Youth Affairs, and Jo-Annah Richards wanted Montserrat to have its first National Youth Choir. As a result of the work I had done here during my first six months they wanted me to co-found and be the musical director of the choir. If I had been leaving the island in the summer I would have had to have turned down the request. Instead, we now have a 60-strong Montserrat National Youth Choir that is the talk of the town having just presented a sellout show at the Montserrat Cultural Centre deemed by many Montserratians to be the best show they have seen in Montserrat.
As we are now approaching the Easter holidays I will have some time to sit down, process all that has happened since the last blog entry, and get everyone up to date with the progress of the project. I hope you will enjoy as I try to demonstrate just how hard-working and talented these young people are and how much they have achieved recently.
Come the summer it will be time for me to bow out and pass over the reins to someone else. I know that the application process for my replacement will be starting very shortly and I hope the previous blogs and the ones to follow will encourage anyone interested in applying to do so. Trust me, it’s an experience you won’t regret.