St Mary High crowned ‘Best School Band’
The St Mary High School is the season 10 winner of the Jamaica’s Best School Band Competition. The group wowed the judges with a medley of reggae and dancehall tunes and walked away with the first-place cash prize of $300,000, among other awards.
Speaking with The Gleaner, music teacher at St Mary High, Krishauna Whittaker Hurlock, said she was pleased and excited that the hard work has paid off.
“The students put in a lot of work. We had to go early in the morning and start rehearsals before any other session. We had to pull them from classes some of the time. We had to rehearse during the lunch break and after school. We really had put in a lot of time. We didn’t get an Easter break at all because we stayed at school and practised and now we have reaped the rewards,” she said.
As for entry into next year’s competition, she explained that they are taking it one day at a time, but this win has signified to them that they have what it takes to see it through to the end and take home the title.
The band performed a slew of popular local hits, including Ding Dong’s Bounce, Likes by Chronixx and the Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam. Their charisma and technicality won over the judges Cherine Anderson, Stephen Stewart, JLL and Derrick Palmer.
According to founder and creative producer of the competition, Rayven Amani, St Mary High emerged victorious because they demonstrated great use of the coaching which they received throughout the weeks of competition.
“They were always in and around the top three. Belair High was leading for most of the competition. They led out of the first round and led the semifinal round. They were expected to come out on top. But of course, St Mary did their homework and came out on top,” she said.
Belair High School placed second in the overall competition and Papine High School copped third place.
INCREASE IN SUPPORT
The competition provides a platform for high school bands across the island to showcase their aptitude while also receiving guidance and mentorship on entering and growing in the Jamaican music industry. Now looking towards its 11th season, Amani expressed that over the years she has seen an increase in the level of support that the programme receives but there is much more that can be done.
“Sponsorship stepped up this time around. We had CHASE Fund on board and GraceKennedy also came on and refreshed us for the whole series, and we also had the Vinyl Record Collectors Association who sponsored the first-place prize. In terms of support and sponsorship, we are growing, and we are also seeing more interest from schools as well,” she reasoned.
“We can always do with more support and more schools getting on board. We want to increase our visibility. A lot of times what we get from people is that they never knew that it was happening so that is one of our goals ... stepping up on our audiovisual production and getting out more content,” Amani continued.
As for its mission to provide mentorship to the youth involved in the competition, she believes that they continue to make good on this promise.
“I have always noted that the top performers worldwide get the start and push and support from a younger age, so we think it is very important to provide a platform for our young performers. The judges who we have on board do not only give their critique but also serve as mentors and are guiding,” she explained.
Season 10 kicked off on March 6 and saw four rounds of competition. Pembroke Hall, St Thomas Technical, Lennon and Ferncourt high schools were among those who made it out of the preliminary round.