ABYSO: Summertime Barbuda

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ABYSO with members of the Commonwealth Resounds
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Create. Perform. Inspire. That’s what the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO) did on July 16 as it mesmerised the audience who gathered for the grand inaugural event Summertime.

Under the distinguished patronage of their Excellencies Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Williams, the ABYSO and Commonwealth Resounds literally lit up the sister isle. Not even the showers of rain could have dampened the moment.

With the anticipation already high for more renditions, the sky gave way to the orchestra whose presence dominated. But first, let’s go back to the mainland where the vessel, appropriately named Summer Breeze, embraced scores of young people and musical instruments.

As the ABYSO members assembled around 6am, YouthZone had the awesome privilege of speaking to Jahzara and Asafa Donovan. They wanted me to know that the ABYSO furnished them with endless opportunities and elevated them to an unimaginable level of excellence.

I may fall short of finding words to explain the joy that emanated from the siblings, but let me just say, it was a moment of awe.

“It’s like therapy,” 16-year-old Jahzara said as she highlighted music’s impact. “The practice helps to relieve the stress and I look forward to all the sessions. I’m proud to be part of the orchestra,” she added.

Jahzara plays all percussion instruments. She told YouthZone that through ABYSO, “I’m exposed to different genres of music and would like to pursue music at the tertiary level.”

Fourteen-year-old Asafa identified discipline, time management, and connecting with good people as a few advantages of music.

Referencing ABYSO’s motto: Promoting Excellence Through Music, Asafa pointed out, “I was never musically inclined like now, but ABYSO opened a lot of doors for me. It made me more mature.”

Amid the hustle and bustle of July 16, Asafa emphasised that he’s reaping the benefits of the discipline ABYSO promotes.

“It has helped me academically to manage my time, which I couldn’t do in the past. And I’ve also gotten some good friends,” he said.

It’s not only the ABYSO that occupies the siblings’ time. The Island Academy students both play volleyball. Jahzara plays basketball too and Asafa is a member of the Holy Family Cathedral church choir.

As they geared up for their first Barbuda trip, the duo congratulated ABYSO for its impactful effort. The journey to Barbuda was rough, but the majestic display of talent on the sister isle made it worthwhile.

But first let’s highlight a few things about the conductor, Roland Melia. Since 2008 he taught conducting technique privately to students of all ages. He also conducted orchestras in Britain, Portugal, Mexico, and Chile.

Melia began his wide-ranging career as a cellist and now teaches students at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

The musical organisation, The Commonwealth Resounds (TCR), also participated. Established in 2005, TCR’s mission is to connect musical cultures, and to promote initiatives and partnerships in Commonwealth countries. Chair of TCR Alison Cox said that they’re

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