Unique Lyford Cay scholarship recipient is an inspiration
When asked in his audition for Berklee College of Music what he wanted to be, Noshi Curry wrote just one line: “I want to be a rockstar.”
It’s a big dream, but Curry, who is the 2011 recipient of the Harry Moore Memorial Scholarship in the Arts offered by the Lyford Cay Foundation, has something on his side—the ability to see possibility in music.
A performing artist of both classical and contemporary music, Curry does not bind himself to just one genre, mastering many types of music in many forms of expression.
Having performed internationally, Curry’s fanbase is mostly made up of Asian audiences—indeed, what makes this Bahamian stand out is his ability to sing in perfect Japanese in a genre that combines classical with contemporary sounds.
“When I do recitals, I usually play one Japanese rock song,” he says. “It turns out many people in the audience were taking videos of me and sending them to Asia. I’m kind of a YouTube star. Through that many producers in Japan have contacted me, interested in my work. I guess they really like my voice.”
Such a unique background and concentration earned Curry the scholarship in his final year of the Contemporary Writing and Production and Classical Composition programs at Berklee in Boston, Massachusetts—perfect because at this private art school, Curry is supporting himself. But the scholarship means more than money to the young musician who has big dreams.
“I just felt that I was worth the recognition—I’ve been getting a lot of recognition in the United States and in Asia and I feel that this is the first time I got significant public recognition from home,” he says.
It’s no wonder Curry is studying music—he is, after all, the grand nephew of the musician and educator Andrew Curry.
“My family felt they should expose me to the possibility of music because it’s in my blood already,” he says.
The story, says Curry, is that his father bought him a piano when he was a toddler. Curry didn’t use it until one day near Christmastime when his parents came into the room to find him playing “Silent Night”.
From there they enrolled Curry in Grey’s Music School, leading him to take the Music Certificate Exams offered by Trinity College London up to the advanced Performance Certificate by the time he was in 7th grade. As well as mastering the piano, he also sang in choirs and played the clarinet, giving him a strong classical background.
Yet Curry’s other interests, developed in grade school, laid the foundation to put him on the specialized path he pursues now. Since his parents were protective of him and his siblings, Curry explains that he used to spend a lot of his social life online meeting people in chatrooms and forming his talent for writing.
In fact, it’s where his name “Noshi” came from—it was his ‘norm de plume’ in storywriting forums that he eventually adopted.
Meeting a lot of anime (Japanese animation) fans online who were fond of role-playing games based on their favorite cartoon, Curry discovered anime himself—and was blown away by the particular genre of music they featured.
“It was a combination of classical and contemporary music to the extreme,” he remembers. “They would have these huge string orchestras and this very modern percussion beat and maybe I didn’t notice it then, but it mainly influenced me to become a musician because it showed me possibility.”
Curry soon began to learn Japanese through watching these anime TV shows, and while he studied classical music, he also taught himself pop rock and jazz genres of music. In fact, he soon left his formal classical studies behind in the 8th grade, feeling discouraged that he was not getting the best out of his music education at the time—yet he still studied Japanese and music on his own in his free time.
In fact, it wouldn’t be until he was studying the unlikely major of Business Management at the College of The Bahamas many years later that he would fully realize his future truly lay in music.
“A teacher asked the class, ‘If you could do anything without failing, what would you do?’ And I said, ‘Be a superstar in music’,” he remembers.
So his teacher encouraged him to join the choir and band at the College of The Bahamas, granting him the chance to travel with the college choir to conventions internationally, like the Southeast African American Collegiate Concert in the United States. Curry credits the main director of that choir at the time, Audrey Dean -Wright, for encouraging him to go on to pursue music elsewhere.
“She really pushed me to work at it and apply to music school because that’s exactly what I wanted to do,” he says. “She said that I had the talent and determination to practice—I would practice for eight hours at a time.”
Upon hearing Curry’s Japanese singing and pop/classical music demos, Curry received the suggestion to continue his music studies at Berklee. Though he also went to the auditions for Julliard and Florida International University, Curry found the diversity that Berklee offered perfect for the freedom he desired to explore both classical and contemporary genres.
“Berklee just felt so much warmer and open,” he says. “When I saw all that diversity at the audition, I felt it was a better foundation to build upon because I just have so many ideas for music that extend beyond the box of just one genre.”
Nearing the end of his program—which is five years long but which he will finish in only four—Curry feels confident he’s made the right choice. It’s a rigorous program indeed—it works somewhat like the music industry where students are responsible for writing their own music, arranging their bands or ensembles, scheduling rehearsals and studio recordings and finding stage managers, all while taking a full class workload.
In addition, Curry is also a part of the orchestral choir in the Calliope professional orchestra, in which he had to learn five languages for their last concert in order to sing in them—quite a feat since he is not a vocal principal at Berklee but rather a piano one. He is also part of the Berklee Chamber Choir and a Video Game Orchestra.
“If the average person does twenty things in college, the Berklee student does about two-hundred,” says Curry. “It’s just the standard they set at this school—we’re going to be competing with the world.”
As Curry looks to the future, he hopes to travel for a few years, learning about different cultures and making connections with different people worldwide in order to push the limits of Bahamian music when he eventually settles at home. He sees himself as an ambassador to The Bahamas while abroad, hoping he can make a difference in the cultural landscape at home.
“As a musician now, you come home and teach and have a few concerts,” he points out. “But what I see myself doing is creating connections and exposing talent in the country, show that I am one out of many talented Bahamian people who are open to different music and cultures. I’d like to turn The Bahamas into a hub of art and culture.”
“It’s about opening up the mind to different perspectives,” he says. “If you have that open mindset, there are so many more things we can do with our education.”
Indeed, Curry sees himself as one of the people who will push Bahamian music forward, which he insists can only happen if the narrow genres Bahamians create for themselves are thrown out. He encourages anyone out there with an unusual dream like his to embrace their individuality and pursue the passion that makes them special so they can change the world through the power of possibility.
“A dream is just an idea to create a goal. A dream can’t just remain a dream,” he says. “Don’t be discouraged. If you want to be it, if you want to do it, work hard and have a positive attitude and make it happen.”
“You will be able to develop that positive attitude which will touch people in the population and you will be able to bring a lot of people in the population on board,” he continues. “That truly is the number one way the Bahamian economy and people as a whole can be boosted.”