Out of the land of reggae, a 22-year-old Jamaican classical singer is fast becoming a rising star on the national stage.
Ms. Sashekia Brown, a soprano studying music at Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University (NCU), will be here in Cayman Sept. 28-29 to share her talent-with-a-difference as she moves against the current of her native country’s musical sea of reggae, mento, ska, rocksteady, dub music, dancehall, reggae fusion and more.
Ms. Brown will perform in Cayman next weekend as part of the third anniversary celebrations of the inauguration of the Cayman Chapter of NCU’s Alumni Association. Ms. Brown accompanies the university’s president, Dr. Lincoln Edwards, who will speak at two services on Saturday (29th) in observance of the anniversary.
During the weekend Ms. Brown will give local audiences a preview of the bright future she is aiming for as a classical singer. She will be at the Walkers Road Kings Adventist Church, beginning on Friday night (Sept. 28), from 7 pm, in a programme that will include performances by four different choirs.
Ms. Brown is also scheduled to appear the following day, on Saturday morning and in the afternoon from 4:30 pm. “We are delighted that Sashekia will be here as a wonderful example to young people in the Cayman Islands that we do not have to follow the masses, but we can carve out our own place and our own destiny, despite environmental distractions,” said Patricia Ebanks, president of the Cayman Chapter of the Northern Caribbean University Alumni Association, which was formally inaugurated in Sept. 2015.
The association, Ms. Ebanks explained, is similarly devoted to creating a vision among youth of a future built on positive values and lifestyles.
Towards that goal, Ms. Ebanks said that the association expects to advertise next week its first donor-funded scholarship tenable at NCU in the 2019/20 academic year. In this and other endeavours, Ms. Ebanks said, the alumni chapter, a registered nonprofit, is dedicated to improving life in the Cayman Islands and supporting NCU as one of the premier regional Christian educational institutions.
For her part, Ms. Brown is devoted to the mastery of her craft and to shaping and sharing her talent. Recently she sang in Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, among other classical roles. In examples of other appearances, she was a featured soloist at the iconic Kings House in Jamaica, and has sung with the well regarded UWI University Singers.
The road to these heights has, admittedly, not been an easy climb. A personal watershed moment for her was the decision to change her major from linguistics to music – a quite revolutionary decision as far as her father was concerned.
In the middle of that important decision, Ms. Brown took a year off from university. In the interim, however, she continued her involvement with the NCU Chorale, an experience that confirmed her partiality for music, both as an academic major and as a performer. When she returned to NCU a year later, Ms. Brown was not only solidly committed to music, but she was also mentally prepared for the rigours of accelerated studies as a music major.
The transition had an organic, harmonized feel to it, she said, given that the life-blood of music was already flowing in her veins. She grew up in a musical family—her father had earned a name as a singer, her grandmother was a soprano in the church choir, and her aunts and uncles were active in singing groups.
The epiphany, however, came at a performance by Jamaica’s singing sensation Ana Strachan at a concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica. At the end of that recital, Ms. Brown was finally at peace with the inner promptings impelling her towards a future as a classical music stage performer.
Never looking back, Ms. Brown is scheduled to graduate from NCU in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Music in Performance and Pedagogy. Following graduation, she will be headed to the United States for a master’s of music degree, as she continues her quest for expression of her musical talent.
Commenting on her gift as a singer and the fulfillment it brings, Ms. Brown said: “I count it a high honour to be able to use my voice to communicate with people; there’s something magical about seeing people responding to music, even when the words I am singing are foreign to them. That really gives me the greatest satisfaction.”
The already blossoming musician said that she hoped to “inspire others to pursue music as a career by example,” she said, “as my teachers and mentors have done for me.”
Ms. Brown will be accompanied locally by Cayman’s Keila Yanet Woods, who studied music at Montemorelos University in Mexico. She later served as a member of the southern Mexico Linda Vista University orchestra (string section) and as a pianist for that university’s choir.
After arriving here in Cayman, she became the pianist at the Bodden Town Adventist Church and now serves in that role at the Filadelfia Adventist Church. She is the founder and current director of the Jesus in the Strings Orchestra.