Fun, exciting & buzzworthy

Centreville Primary School and Hugh Campbell Primary School students engage in Nassau Music Society pBuzz pilot program

When most people think of Nassau Music Society (NMS), they think of their concerts and music events. Less is known about their education, outreach initiatives, promotion of the art of music, and that they provide support, financial and otherwise, to Bahamian students, musicians and music educators. To capture the musical interest of younger children and teach them the basics of playing a brass instrument in a fun and exciting way, they have introduced pBuzz pilot programs. It is fundamentally a simplified version of a trombone, in that it uses the same size mouthpiece and has a movable tube to change the pitch.

Centreville Primary School in New Providence and Hugh Campbell Primary School in Grand Bahama were introduced to the program last month.

Each school received 30 pBuzz instruments; a teacher-training workshop with brass expert Aidan Chamberlain, who has experience developing pBuzz programs in Trinidad and Tobago; music resources with lesson plans and assessment trackers for every topic; and online support with proven curriculum content from Warwick Music Group.

“The main takeaway is getting an instrument in the hands of every child in the primary classroom, creating a reliable and prepared baseline of young brass players that emerges every year from the primary schools, in effect, creating a feeder system of appropriately skilled students into junior and senior high schools,” said Cynthia Van Wynen, NMS executive director.

Students at Centreville Primary School (CPS) and Hugh Campbell Primary School (HCPS) have been introduced to the instrument that is a fully plastic trombone-like device with a removable, anti-microbial full-sized mouthpiece.

With a full-sized mouthpiece, the pBuzz has a range of six notes through its movable slide. The slide positions are labeled by color, note name and also slide positions, so that children can learn in many ways, from traditional notation or the Chroma Note color system, to help aid understanding of pitch and varying length.

Buzz is for “buzzing”, which is the elemental skill required to play brass instruments.

NMS officials say they immediately felt it would be a good fit for The Bahamas as brass is a key part of the heritage of Bahamian music and a significant part of Junkanoo.

The instrument is relatively inexpensive, affording NMS the opportunity to provide sufficient instruments for every child in the classroom at the selected schools.

ARM Caribbean Ltd., a regular NMS sponsor, is helping to underwrite costs associated with the pilot programs. NMS is hoping to facilitate two more programs in the fall – on a family island, and another in New Providence.

Factors taken into consideration in the pilot school selection process included location and resources. Van Wynen said it was important to them to include a family island school, and schools that don’t have a lot of resources in the music classroom.

Also, that the teachers at both schools are well known to them.

“We worked closely with Joseph Edwards (HCPS) in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and helped provide instruments and classroom materials to help rebuild his music room through our hurricane relief program, Music Matters. Additionally, he and Kristen Carey (CPS) and their students have participated in several NMS [online] concerts for children and we know them to be dedicated, professional, and accomplished music educators who will actively incorporate pBuzz into their teaching,” said Van Wynen.

NMS does not run the programs; the music teachers at the respective schools manage their own classrooms. NMS provides the tools and training. The schools are to provide NMS with updates at designated intervals during the school year, so that they can assess progress and determine what may be added, or changed in future iterations, but the teachers are in charge of their classrooms.

Van Wynen said Warwick Music Group has a vast amount of teaching resources, including classroom lesson plans which the teachers can access as their programs and proficiencies progress.

“An important component of the program is the train-the-trainer model that supports the wide sharing of skills and knowledge,” said Van Wynen. “We are designing the pilot programs to create a sustainable model that can be easily replicated in additional schools as funds [sponsorships and grants] become available. Sustainability can be achieved by training two Bahamian teachers in each iteration who will support the training of future teachers while continuing to receive supplemental training and support themselves.”

The NMS executive director said the goals of the program are to promote inclusivity and increase accessibility to hands-on music learning in the primary years.

“Music is for everyone,” said Van Wynen.

And that it is essential because it also develops essential life skills (teamwork, perseverance, responsibility, engagement, self-expression) through music practice from a young age; nurtures natural music talents and develops foundational music skills from an early age that can be carried on to junior and senior high school and beyond.

Van Wynen said music has transformative power and supports the awareness and preservation of cultural heritage by engaging children in their local musical traditions.

Christine Gangelhoff, NMS vice president and artistic director, first heard about pBuzz from friend and fellow musician and music educator, Chamberlain, assistant professor of music at the Academy for the Performing Arts, part of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), and who started school and community-based pBuzz programs in T&T.

NMS had initially planned to start pBuzz programs in 2020, but had to shelve those plans due to the COVID pandemic. With the pilot program underway, NMS is uniquely placed to identify schools and teachers who will make the programs a success. Gangelhoff has been a professor of music at University of The Bahamas (UB) since 2007 and is the founder of the Bahamas Music Educators’ Association (BMEA). Crashan Johnson, NMS secretary and education and outreach coordinator, is a music teacher at C.R. Walker Senior High School and serves as president of BMEA.

NMS officials hosted numerous workshops, seminars and concerts for children over the years (gaining the capability to reach family island schools during COVID when all schools went online) and have strong relationships with many schools and music educators across the nation.

PBuzz is one of the NMS education and outreach initiatives implemented this season. It was developed about 10 years ago by the Warwick Music Group, which has developed a range of plastic instruments – pBone, pTrumpet and pBugle.

NMS is a registered nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1968 by the late E. Clement Bethel, a champion of the arts and a national cultural icon. Since its founding, with the help of corporate sponsorship and private donations, NMS has presented hundreds of world-class concerts, offered free masterclasses, provided scholarships and grants to Bahamian students and musical groups, and extended its education and outreach activities throughout the nation.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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