NYO Percussionist Simone reflects on her time in Trinidad and Tobago where she participated in the Youth Music Exchange (YMX) programme at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Academy for the Performing Arts.
Hi there! My name is Simone, I’m an NYO 2017 percussionist, and this year NYO offered me the incredible opportunity to travel out to Trinidad and Tobago to participate in the amazing Youth Music Exchange (YMX) programme, founded by ex-NYO member and renowned musical director Kwamé Ryan.
The project ran for two weeks at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Academy for the Performing Arts, and the YMX participants included 6 international percussionists from the United States, Columbia, and the UK, along with a number of host students from the University.
Arriving for our first day at the University of Trinidad & Tobago’s stunning Academy for the Performing Arts
YMX participants and university students during a Trinidadian drumming masterclass
We were tutored by the awesome Josh Watkins, and, during our two week stay, we participated in a number of unforgettable performances as part of ‘APAFest’, a show celebrating the work of the entire Performing Arts Academy, including the university’s Orchestra, Big Band, Pan Ensemble, and Voice and Dance students to name but a few.
Rehearsal group shot of Pan Ensemble and YMX members
Opening night APAFest Performance at the Academy for the Performing Arts
We also travelled right across the island of Trinidad, taking part in a total of five energizing performances for embassy officials and hundreds of Trinidadian school children!
We had an amazing time during the outreach performances. The audiences were awesome!
Our days were absolutely crammed full with rehearsals, presentations, masterclasses, and performances, and I received some great tips and advice on how to improve my technique and performance skills.
Learning new skills and receiving expert guidance
During the two weeks, we performed in such a huge variety of different venues that we became pretty expert at performing rapid set-changes and transporting the numerous percussion instruments to and from different spaces. Our communication and organisational skills were honed and we worked as a team to make sure things ran smoothly. These skills are going to be so helpful for me back home!
Some of the many YMX performanes!
When we weren’t busy rehearsing, setting up or performing, we were soaking up the vibrancy of ‘Trinibagonian’ life with trips to the museum, beaches, a steel pan manufacturing firm, street carnivals, and plenty of historical & cultural sites!
Leisure time on the glorious islands!
The two weeks were made extra special by the people I met and worked alongside. Not only were they talented musicians, but they were all super friendly and a whole lot of fun to be around too!
I’m going to miss these guys!
Thank you NYO and YMX for letting me take part in this unforgettable experience!