As the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival adjudications continue throughout The Bahamas, educators applaud the Festival and the role it plays in the overall development of students. Physical Education Teacher at the Louise McDonald High School in Bimini, Stephanie Woodside not only helped to direct the school choir’s entry in the Festival, she also entered the adjudication as a singing participant. She said that she was very honored to be at the Festival this year because she had entered primary school. “I had always been in the National Arts Festival; so, naturally, when I became a teacher, I wanted to take on the task of helping the students to perform in the Festival,” she said. In Nicholl’s Town, Andros, Huntley Christie High School Art teacher Elkino Dames also had high praises for the Festival. “The E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival is an excellent pursuit for displaying the students’ talent and creativity; and we here, at Huntley Christie High, at more than ecstatic to be a part of it,” he said. “The students gave an overwhelming response in their time and effort, and their approach to producing the work. “We feel ecstatic about the entire process.”
The school’s vice principal Bryan Williams also voiced his support for his students entering the Festival.“We are always excited when the National Arts Festival come becomes the children look forward to it, and they work to prepare pieces for this,” he said. “Coming out last year as national winners (in their class), definitely we know that we have to defend our title; and we look forward to doing that again this year.” In the Abacos, Principal of Hope Town Primary School Justin Higgs said that, over the past five years, his school’s choir had been involved with the Festival. “It’s a joy to bring our little island to the rest of The Bahamas, with some special treats of the beautiful voices of the children,” he said. “We are thrilled to have the judges come up to Abaco, and to come all the way out to our little cay, to see this special treat.” The school’s Choir Director Donnella Rolle said that it was an honor to perform every year and her students work “really hard” to prepare, and it shows in the way they perform.
After their performance that day, the choir received a distinction for their Bahamian medley. “It’s always awesome to receive great grades and my kids worked extremely hard to get them,” she said with pride. At Every Child Counts, a school for special students in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Principal Lynn Major also had high praises for the Festival. “The students love being in the National Arts Festival because it’s an area where they can excel and they can do very well, and there is a lot of talent;” she said. “It is an exciting time for them, getting ready for the National Arts Festival.” When asked about how she felt with the adjudicators coming to her school for the students, Ms. Major gave a heartfelt response. “It’s great, we love it,” she exclaimed. “It’s wonderful for us that they come and that the students get to participate; so we appreciate that.” District Superintendent for Abaco Dominique McCartney-Russell said that she was elated that students there were taking part in the Festival. “The reality is that all of them have gifts, they have talents, they have abilities and skills, and they have to be displayed,” she said. “It gives them confidence, as well as competence. They become stronger individuals and a better person, I believe. “Each student who is participating has an opportunity to showcase the talents that God has given them, and we who are in charge of their schools have to support the effort; so that those students do their best.”
The principal of the Treasure Cay Primary School Chantell Cox said that it was a wonderful feeling to have her students participate in the National Arts Festival because it is a chance for them to showcase their culture. “A lot of times we stay within the four walls and we tend to focus on academics; but then we have to realize that, to build a well-rounded child, we have to move away from just academics,” Ms. Cox said. “The children have to participate in more of the cultural experiences, as well as the sporting activities.” Junkanoo Co-ordinator at the school Stephanel Stubbs said that her passion is getting the students passionate about their cultural experiences. “I enjoy the fact that they bring out their absolute best,” she said. “They feel it, they hit the streets, the rhythm. They get the crowds involved and, at the end of the day, it is all about them performing.”
“It’s about them bringing out their best and that is what they aspire to do – and as co-ordinators and faculty of Treasure Cay Primary, we are they to inspire them and continue to work along with them, so that Junkanoo will be something that never dies in Bahamian society,” Ms. Stubbs added.
Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS) Music Teacher Ervin Colebrooke noted that the students performed in prior years and for the performances, that day was to allow the children to express themselves and get the opportunity to “really reach out”. “Giving them the chance to participate was first and foremost,” Mr. Colebrooke said. “We really have some talented students and this opportunity allows them to bring that out, and you never know what they are going to be in the future. “You can see the budding artists, the budding psalmist – and all these things – just by letting them perform in the National Arts Festival.” Fourth Grade teacher Jessika Smith, of CAPS’ Culture Club, said her students performed excellently in the National Arts Festival, stating it was beyond her expectations. “I am very proud of them,” she said. At Arthur’s Town High School, on Cat Island, Senior Assistant and Religious Studies teacher, Antoine V. Duncombe said it was a privilege to have the Festival visit their school every year. “This is the fourth year I have been in charge of getting the students together for the Festival, for the four years I have been here; and it always does my heart well to see them do something beyond academics,” Mr. Duncombe said. The principal of Old Bight Primary School Olivia King said she was her proud of her students who also performed at the Cat Island adjudications. “They really brought the energy and they showed me why I am so, so very proud of them,” she said. “It takes a lot of practice; but once they see their counterparts performing, they really get a higher interest in being in it.” As of press time, the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Adjudications were taking place in Grand Bahama, with its next stop being New Providence.