The Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO) recently received a donation of new musical instruments for the use of students who are enrolled in its ongoing programme. The symbolic handover ceremony was held at Government House and was facilitated by H.E. Lady Sandra Williams, President of the Halo Foundation. The donation included 3 violas, 3 trombones, 3 French horns, 3 trumpets, 2 oboes and 2 bassoons. This is the third occasion on which the Halo Foundation has arranged instruments for donation to ABYSO.
“It is extremely encouraging to see how ABYSO has progressed despite the lockdown”, said Lady Williams. “The students are pleased with the newly introduced element of virtual instruction, and in speaking to the three young players here today, their enthusiasm for distance learning is evident. The gift of additional instruments will provide opportunities for more interested students to be a part of this great musical movement.”
Director and Head of Fundraising for ABYSO, Eurileen Thibou, explained that the “Virtual Academy” will remain a central part of the ABYSO programme ad infinitum. “It’s a must have,” she stressed. “We are still incorporating face to face instruction, as this is an irreplaceable method of teaching. Whenever possible, we fly in tutors for a week or two of intense training with the students. With virtual learning, the tutors are already familiar with the students with whom they have already been working for three to six months, by the time they arrive in Antigua. In fact, most of the online instructors have visited Antigua over the past three years”.
Many of the instructors volunteered their time and expertise for two to three hours per week over a three-month period. The four organisations represented in this kaleidoscope of tutors are the Royal Over-Seas League (ROSL), the Commonwealth Resounds, MusAid and the Global Leaders Programme. There are also several local tutors who support the orchestra in the same manner.
ABYSO is constantly seeking ways to identify new talent, once the interest and commitment of the prospective student is apparent. Students are not required to purchase instruments, unless they desire so to do. There is an annual registration fee of EC$150, plus EC$50 to rent an instrument for the entire year. The student then benefits from weekly tuition, access to sheet music, exclusive use of his or her chosen instrument, and all other offerings.
Students can remain engaged in the programme by continuous enrolment in a private music school. In 2019, ABYSO developed a scholarship initiative whereby students are selected based on merit, and moreover, on need — coupled with a personal commitment to the discipline required for the development of a serious musician. Last year, nine scholarships were administered. In 2020, ABYSO will be awarding 22 scholarships — all of which will support the students in local private music schools across the island for a full year of tuition. The scholarships were given largely by local businesses and families interested in seeing this programme succeed. According to H.E. Karen-Mae Hill, High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Kingdom and Chair / Chief Executive of ABYSO, “We are adamant that the orchestra must not be elitist. Whether you are from Green Bay or Blue Waters, if you have the talent and the drive, you should have the opportunity to join this programme”.
A new board has been put in place to lead the organisation for an additional two-year period. Further, a website has recently been completed and is available live to the public. (www.abyso.org).
On Sunday 4th October at 5:00 pm, the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra will live stream a Late Summer Concert on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/abysomusic/) and the general public is invited to attend.
Photo Caption (L-R):
Elysia Armstrong (ABYSO student, oboe); H.E. Lady Sandra Williams (Patron of ABYSO); Raphael McIntosh (ABYSO student, French horn); Eurileen Thibou (ABYSO Head of Fundraising); and Jeiel Charles (ABYSO student, bassoon).