IT’S not hard finding talented Saint Lucians these days in Saint Lucia. What’s hard, however, is finding that rare talent that desperately seeks to be better and pass it on for the greater good of an entire society.
Keitje Greaves, 22, of Entrepot, Castries, is quite an unassuming character at first glance. But whenever he picks up a trombone, be prepared to have a jaw-dropping moment for the next few bars of music he blows your way. This guy knows his chops.
Greaves was one of the musicians who lit up the Golden Palm Event Centre a fortnight ago when the St. Lucia School of Music (SLSM) held a benefit concert featuring SLSM teacher, Wagner Trinidade, of Brazil. Not only did he blow the audience away with his youthful and gifted assets; he also showed that this nation’s beautiful music story is unfolding one score sheet at a time.
Greaves, a student at the St. Lucia School of Music for the past eight years, has also been teaching music part-time there. From a tender age, he said, he’s always had a passion for music, even though he couldn’t define what “passion” meant.
“Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, my mother always encouraged me,” Greaves said. “She told me to join the St. Lucia School of Music but being young at the time, I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t venture into that. But she did manage to get me into steel pan. At age 9, I was in the Allegro Pan Groove Juniors and that lasted about a year. When I entered St. Mary’s College some years later, I joined the steel band there. I really got a greater passion for music there.”
In Form Three, when he was just 14, his friend, Caleb Georges, begged him to join the Saint Lucia School of Music wind band. The band had visited St. Mary’s College and Caleb was a viola player and pianist in the wind band at the time. But Greaves resisted, offering this simple explanation: “I guess that was my nature at the time. But the fact that I later joined was a decision that I haven’t regretted because the experience has changed my life.” [Caleb is currently studying viola performance at Bowling Green State University in the United States].
At first, Greaves didn’t know much about wind instruments. Having played bass pan previously, he wanted to play a lower instrument, opting for the trumpet. However, he said, “my mentor/hero Ryan Finn (a teacher at SLSM) told me that the trombone would be better for me.” The decision he took then still gives him goose bumps.
“So he placed me on trombone and, again, that’s a decision that has changed my life. I’ve fallen in love with the trombone and have played it for the past eight years. It has helped me to improve my self-esteem as well a giving a desire to help people,” Greaves said.
After leaving Sir Arthur Lewis Community College some years ago, Greaves got the opportunity to be a music teacher at Ave Maria Girls’ Primary School, which is actually his main job at the moment. He said he has a strong love for that job because since he already loves music, teaching the subject with the high level of enthusiasm he has makes him more effective. Working with young people, he added, is both inspiring and fulfilling.
“Being a young person and having gone through school, I’ve seen how sometimes bad influences can change a lot of young people who have so much potential. So having witnessed how music, for instance, has transformed my life, I have developed that desire to help the youth through music,” Greaves said.
Had it not been for music, Greaves said he probably would have gotten into a lot of trouble by now. Since children at that stage are still trying to find their identity, it still boggles his mind as to what path his life would have taken without music. Music, it turns out, has been the love affair that keeps producing note after fulfilling note each time he plays. In 2010, SLSM ran a programme that trained potential music teachers to help with their social inclusion programme. Greaves was selected as part of that team that went to Jamaica and he also got the chance to perform there, a moment he said he still cherishes.
Greaves is also a member of ASAP Band, which he and his former school friends at SLSM formed a couple years ago. They were previously part of the Black Antz Jazz Combo, an ensemble from SLSM. He said the fact that band members work together and have a strong friendship works well for the talented unit. Some band members now play on cruise ships but you’ll soon be seeing much more of ASAP. The band, which has played at the local jazz festival and other major events, should be playing at Tea Time Jazz and the Fire Grill this May during the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. Keitje is also a member of the TJ Project formed by soca artiste Teddyson John, so expect anything…
He still plays steel pan from whenever he feels like it and also plays keyboards. He even plays a major part in organizing Ave Maria Primary School’s calypso and soca shows for which he does most of the composing and arranging. And that’s where your help comes in: he needs to do more by being better at it.
“My desire is to attend any institution that can provide me with a good music education and where I can get the opportunity to play with high-quality bands,” Greaves explained. “That way, I can become a much better musician and be able to use that to help others. I want to be able to be better at composing and arranging. So I want to tackle all the areas of the music industry. Although my focus might be on performing and education, it’s always good to let all of our talents shine forth in every way we possibly can.”
That’s right. Greaves is desperately seeking all the kind-hearted assistance he can get to pursue higher music education. After resisting the urge to get into music at 14, the youngster seems willing to go wherever his music takes him so that he can bring it all back home for the benefit of others.
“I believe that the talents that I’ve gained from SLSM can be nurtured and developed even more so that I continue to contribute to society. By giving me a scholarship, it will not only be an investment in Keitje but in Saint Lucia’s youth overall,” Greaves said.
In case you’re wondering whether being philosophical about life and other things come with old age and grey hair, this youngster has figured out just what his music means to him and what he can use it for.
“From ancient times, societies have always transformed through the arts. Very often, however, the arts have been neglected in our Caribbean societies. We may not know all the benefits of the arts but it’s been proven time and again what the benefits of music can do. A lot of our social problems can be solved through proper and organized music education,” Greaves said.
If you’d like to make a pledge to Greaves’ music scholarship fund, you can contact him at 721 9426 or 453 22473 (SLSM office). You can also send him an email at [email protected].