SOMETIMES having a dream finds you fueling it with every bit of dedication and hard work even while you’re awake. It’s the kind of dream that even sees you having sleepless nights, hardworking days and everything in between tells you that despite the painstaking efforts, that dream is worth the investment.
Eighteen-year-old guitarist Dwight Florent lives that dream every day and has done so for the past 13 years. His musical journey started from around age five while he attended church where he gradually began playing various instruments, including the drums, guitar and piano. That helped him to determine which instrument he was more comfortable with and he soon realized that the guitar was his calling.
Around age 13, while he was still a student at Corinth Secondary School, his father, Gordon, and mother, Caroline, realized that he was taking music seriously and decided to send him to the Saint Lucia School of Music (SLSM) to pursue formal training.
After signing up for keyboards class initially, Florent switched to guitar, deeming it his perfect fit. While studying there, he also got the chance to perform professionally with the school’s jazz band, Black Antz.
Florent said his main musical influences are jazz guitarists George Benson and Norman Brown and he often spends hours listening to their songs and riffing to them on his guitar. But the youngster, who makes playing the guitar seems cooler than a cucumber on stage, said most of what he now knows came via the Internet.
“I used YouTube a lot,” Florent said. “Almost everything I know about playing guitar, I learned from watching YouTube videos and practicing what I learned. So by the time I went to music school, it was really more of a learning process of what I was doing. While I’m still getting there with the theory side of music, my practical side of music is very strong.”
Florent later became part of a youth band, ASAP, landing gigs at various venues around Saint Lucia. Everything began to fall into place but things got even better when he was chosen among a group of budding local musicians for a two-week scholarship to Venezuela to get formal training from that country’s national music programme, El Sistema. He still has fond memories of that inspiring trip.
“The experience was great for me because we got to experience a different culture, especially their various styles of music,” he explained. “So it definitely helped to expand my musical vocabulary, so to speak. That was another learning experience that I’m grateful for.”
Following the ASAP era, Florent became a member of dynamic youth band, Dynamix, of which he is band leader. Other bandmates are Danyl Daniel (keyboards), Gershom Gerson (bass), Dylan Thomas (drums) and Rashaad Joseph (saxophone).
The almost-three-year-old band has since landed major gigs in the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, Independence celebrations, official naming of the new Owen King-EU Hospital, to name a few. Recently, Dynamix inked a deal with Royalton Saint Lucia, where the group performs every Monday. Florent said the growth process continues.
“It’s been great so far. We approach this whole music business with proper management. I told the other band members that we must be professional because if we were to approach people for gigs, they might see young faces and underpay us. But if we have the right management and talent, we wouldn’t have to burn any bridges and learn the hard way,” he said, sounding as businesslike as Jay-Z or Courtney “Curty” Louis.
Florent said future plans for the band include more live performances, music videos, creating original music, travelling overseas and whatever positive opportunities come the band’s way. He’s also looking forward to the band’s trip to England in June as part of a trade roadshow organized by the Saint Lucia Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEPA). While there, the band will perform at a mainstage event and other side gigs.
He admitted that the path to success and doing what he loves has not been as harmonious as the notes he belts out on his guitar or the camaraderie he shares with his bandmates. For instance, while his parent have always been supportive of his interest in music, he was still expected to wake up at seven in the morning to prepare for school despite ending a gig four hours earlier.
“It was kind of difficult for me to stay awake in class,” he stated. “However, I did most of my schoolwork at home since I had the textbooks. Even my ASAP bandmates used to encourage me to study. It was difficult for me at first but I had to organize and prioritize. My goal at school was to prove to people that I was not stupid. Even though I have a talent, I knew that education is important.”
Among Florent’s dreams is to perform alongside George Benson and Justin Bieber. Having been inspired by them, he is also paying it forward by offering advice to other youngsters still trying to live their dreams. Whenever he performs onstage he said, he tries to empower his contemporaries that anything is possible once people dream big and work hard.
“I often get messages from young people like myself asking me to show them how to do what I do. I love that I’m able to inspire them. But my advice to them is that if they want to do something great, don’t be iffy about it – just do it and do it wisely. Also, pray. Even though I’m talented, I know that the Almighty gave me that gift. Also, be thankful and stop asking for things,” he explained.
If you ever happen to see and hear Florent and his band onstage, you just might decipher that Dynamix band has the right ingredients that musical legends are made of. In a business where egos tend to trump talent, this quintet that Florent dreams will take Saint Lucian music globally definitely stirs up some hope that the youth are more than the negatives usually ascribed to them. As Florent told it, though, the encouragement must start at home.
“I must thank my parents for having the patience with and a vision for me. They saw something in me that not many people did. They kept on pushing for me to be who I am today,” Florent explained.