As he prepares for the Caribbean premiere of San Jose Suites this weekend at Queen’s Hall, Trinidad born jazz musician Etienne Charles provided a much appreciated and fun musical lesson to students of the Princess Elizabeth Special School, St. Crispin’s Anglican School and Eshe’s Learning Center.
Showcasing his musical genius and that of his band (all hailing from the United States), Charles thrilled the children and special guests, including representatives from the government, corporate sponsors, and U.S. Ambassador John Estrada to a performance at the Princess Elizabeth Center on Thursday morning.
Adopting a friendly and interactive teaching style, he introduced the kids to the musical instruments – saxophone, electric guitar, electric piano, double bass violin, drums and trumpet, as well as their respective players – Mr. Brian, Mr. Alex, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Johnathan, Mr. John and Mr. Charles (himself). Providing basic information about each instrument, Etienne engaged the children and had them challenge their memory when he asked for a repeat of the facts presented. They happily shouted the correct answers, singing and dancing to the sad and happy melodic chords, tics and clicks of a series of jazz standards, including a New Orleans funeral march medley including “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The children thanked him with their rendition of “God Bless our Nation” and “We Wish you a Merry Christmas.”
After the exciting hour long session, Etienne said his outreach is part of his role “to give kids a chance to explore their musical side.”
“I was raised doing this as a family. Some people give checks but I give the kids my time, my music and some might see it as healing. While we play I study the kids and see how it impacts, I see some of them dancing, moving to the beats and I am happy.”
Following the performance, Ambassador Estrada commended Etienne and his band for the “heartwarming” performance. He told the children they were privileged as Etienne and his band “could be anywhere in the world, but they choose to be here.”
“I wish there could be more committed and good citizens like you giving back to the community. We need to see more people doing this.”
Etienne and his band also performed at St. Dominic’s Children’s Home and St. Mary’s Children’s Home. The concerts were supported by the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, the U.S. Embassy, Republic Bank, Sagicor, the Blink Foundation and other sponsors.